On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Jakarta can no longer turn a blind eye to terror

It has been described as the weakest link when it comes
to security cooperation. The bitter lesson for Indonesia
is that security is not just a political issue.

Acting against Islamic radicals in the republic may cause
unhappiness among a large section of the voters but Indonesia
must realise that it will lose out economically if it does not.

It will take a year or more before tourists start
returning to Bali, once an island paradise. Thanks to
the bombers, the island's tourism industry – with arrival figures of up to five
million a year – is now in shambles.

The blasts killed more than 180 people, mostly foreign tourists,
on the island resort last week. The attacks took place in Kuta beach, a
playground for Australians who flock to its beaches for sun and surf. Among the
dead and wounded were Singaporeans, Britons, Americans, Swedes, Swiss and

If previously Indonesia was seen as a place where riots
occur almost daily, now it is seen as a nation threatened by organisations like
Jemaah Islamiah headed by Abu Bakar Ba'asyir.

He is wanted by Malaysia
and Singapore
authorities but lives freely in Indonesia
although its members have been arrested across the region. His deputy, Riduan
Isamuddin, also known as Hambali, is accused of being a long-time al-Qaeda
operative and also wanted by Malaysia
and Singapore.

In a bid to show it was serious about tackling terrorism,
Indonesian leaders hurriedly announced that they had names of individuals
connected to the attacks.

Defence Minister Matori Abdul Djalil denied that Jakarta
had been soft on militants but admitted for the first time that an al-Qaeda
network existed in Indonesia.

The world wants Indonesia
to clamp down on militant groups. There must be arrests and laws must be drawn
up to detain terrorist suspects. It does Jakarta
no good when Islamic radicals attack club patrons openly, in the name of
religion, and get away with it.

What Indonesia
needs is plenty of political will. Its neighbours are fed up with some
Indonesian politicians who flirt with these militant leaders to win elections.

It is a dangerous game and unless Indonesia
acts fast against these cowards, the region will suffer along. To many
Westerners, especially Americans, it makes no difference whether it is Singapore,
Malaysia or Indonesia.

All the South-East Asian countries are lumped together.
An incident such as the Bali blast will only put pressure
on an already slowing economy, particularly when Malaysia
is trying hard to attract foreign direct investments.

Vice-President Hamzah Haz, for example, blamed weak intelligence and poor
security measures for the Bali blast but we have not forgotten
that Hamzah had in the past denied the existence of a terrorist network in Indonesia.

In fact, Hamzah even visited detained militant leader
Jaafar Umar Thalib of the Laskar Jihad group, blamed for inciting violence
against Christians.

Indonesian leaders must understand that being tough with
terrorists need not necessarily mean compromising on political order. In both Malaysia
and Singapore,
the majority of the people have supported their governments in using
legislation to prevent political instability.

Indonesian politicians must now stop playing games. They
must give the government real power to go after these perpetrators while
security and anti-terror strategies have to be drawn up and implemented

Ordinary Indonesians seem to be in a state of denial,
refusing to believe that their countrymen are capable of carrying out such a
despicable act.

Many believe that some foreign power was behind the
bombings. There was nothing sophisticated about the method used in the attack.
The Indonesia
media is doing an injustice to the war against terrorism by continuing to fan
this conspiracy theory.

The terrorists can claim they are fighting for a just
cause but when innocent lives are taken, they are merely lunatics, not holy
men. There can be no religious, political or moral justification for such