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A year on, bureaucracy thwarting counterterrorism

Jakarta Post - August 5, 2011

Since its inception on July 16, 2010, the much-hyped National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) remains wedged within a protracted bureaucracy that slows down its efforts to go full steam, particularly in organizing a comprehensive de-radicalization program. The Jakarta Post's Rendi A. Witular looks into the issue.

Three young staff members were occupied with their computers in a cramped room at the BNPT's secretariat section on one Tuesday afternoon.

Although they may deal with classified data, none of them are officially civil servants. They are temps, recruited on a short-term basis to patch-up manpower shortages at the agency.

While other agencies and ministries are dealing with too many idle staff, the BNPT is facing the opposite problem. Of the needed manpower of more than 122 civil servants and agents, the agency has only been able to recruit 56 people so far.

The impact of the shortage is devastating. In addition to lacking a comprehensive de-radicalization program, the agency has yet to develop strategic planning, standard operating procedures, and good governance principals.

"We're in dire need of manpower. Our staff are overburdened with drafting all of these procedures simultaneously," said BNPT secretary Air Marshal Chairul Akbar, who joined the agency at the end of January. Worse, the agency's entire echelon-four jobs (section heads) have not been filled.

The agency filed requests for the needed manpower with the Office of the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister, and the Office of the Administrative Reforms Ministry.

However, no efforts have been forthcoming from these offices to help accelerate the process. "Maybe it's the paperwork that makes the process longer," said Chairul, who has spent most of his career with the Air Force's elite force, Paskhas.

This hurdle may in part explain why most of the agency's programs, including de-radicalization, prevention, capacity building, international cooperation, and even coordination with other agencies are not in place yet. Thus, counterterrorism measures, particularly law enforcement, are still entirely dependent upon the National Police's anti-terror squad Detachment 88.

"We're coordinating well with the police. But the BNPT is already the central agency for analyzing terrorist threats and gathering intelligence," said the agency's director of operations, Brig. Gen. Petrus Reinhard Golose formerly a police officer, who spearheaded the hunt for many terrorist masterminds prior to joining the agency.

Indonesia has not seen a major terrorist attack since the bombing of the J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta in 2009.

Most of the country's notorious terrorist masterminds have also either been killed in police raids or convicted in the law courts. However, a recent string of terrorist plots, which were foiled by police, underlines the fact that the fight against terrorism is far from over.

Critics are now demanding that law enforcers focus their counterterrorism efforts on prevention and preemptive measures rather than on crackdowns, which often result in many casualties.

Analysts are concerned that fatalities from such raids may eventually lead to a cycle of revenge violence by the followers and families of suspected terrorists.

Among the preventive measures being called for, is the need to prevent radical teachings of Islam, as have been delivered in several boarding schools and praying clubs in universities and mosques.

And measures put in place for that are to be coordinated by the BNPT, which has the immense task of monitoring around 40,000 registered Islamic boarding schools and 800,000 mosques.

The agency is also tasked with rehabilitating and monitoring former convicted terrorists, to preventing them from committing similar crimes. According to police data, however, as of May this year, more than 285 of those imprisoned for terrorist offenses had been released but, in most cases, authorities do not know their current whereabouts.

Apart from the manpower issue, the BNPT is also facing budget restraints. Since its founding, the agency's budget is controlled by the Office of the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister.

The agency was due to receive Rp 255 billion (US$27 million) for its daily operations this year but, until now, it has received only Rp 90 billion. "Our budget is not that big. For next year, we only expect to receive Rp 126 billion," said Chairul.

As the BNPT has no control over its budget, rumors are rife about alleged misappropriation of funds in its facility and infrastructure procurement. Chairul denied the allegations.

It was due to budget constraints that the agency could not secure any space for its headquarters until December last year. The BNPT eventually set up headquarters on Jl. Imam Bonjol 53, Central Jakarta, which is not big enough to accommodate more than 122 staff. The building is also seen as vulnerable to would-be car-bomb attacks.

The agency took out a two-year lease on the building, which is located in an affluent neighborhood, until the construction of its own high-rise headquarters in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, is completed.

"Basically, during its first year since inception, the BNPT is still focusing on developing the organization and infrastructure," said terrorism analyst Andi Widjajanto of the University of Indonesia. "Going beyond those efforts, I don't think the agency is up-and-running."

Andi said the agency seems to be slowly equipping itself with the necessary resources and infrastructure, albeit amid an increasing radicalism movement in the regions, as well as the emergence of new terrorist groups.

"The agency cannot keep up with the new kind of terrorist threats. It should accelerate the completion of its infrastructure so that it can operate at full throttle."

But a source at the BNPT said the prime obstacle facing the agency is a weak legal basis when trying to enforce other institutions comply with the agency's recommendations and requests regarding preventive measures.

"The agency sent the Transportation Ministry a list of minimum procedures that an airport should follow to prevent terrorist attacks. But the ministry is treating the matter lightly and considers the BNPT as little more than a security consultant," said the source.

A presidential decree regulating the operation of the BNPT stipulates no requirement for other institutions to comply with the agency, whose function is highlighted merely as "coordinator" of counterterrorism measures.

Amid the loose interpretation of the agency's authority, a dichotomy between the police and the Indonesian military (TNI) at the agency has also worsened the situation, according to another source at the agency.

The BNPT is actually designed to accommodate the TNI's demand to have a share in the fight against terrorism. Through the agency, the TNI is expected to be able to deploy its resources not only in preventive measures and intelligence gathering but also in raids, which are currently handled by the police as the sole authority in security enforcement.

The TNI, whose main function is to deal with national defense issues, has several counterterrorism squads of its own, including the Army's Special Force Gultor, the Air Force's Den Bravo, and the Navy's Den Jaka.

"These squads, along with the Army's territorial command network that reaches into villages, have been an idle asset for a long time," said Andi.

"The TNI has requested a share in the counterterrorism measures but this has never been granted. The police remain the sole authority in the sector. This has somehow affected the way the BNPT is run," he said.

The BNPT's top posts are filled with the best field officers from the police and the military.

Legislator Eva Kusuma Sundari, a member of the House of Representatives' Commission III overseeing legal affairs and laws, said she had noticed the problem between the police and the TNI at the agency.

"But I hope it will not lead to infighting because these boys have guns," she said. "Strong leadership is needed to ensure the agency remains in tact."

Since last month, the BNPT has officially come under the supervision of Commission III; the first hearing between legislators and the agency is expected to be held soon. Chairul, however, strongly denied any infighting at the agency.

"I can ensure you that there's no rift at the agency," he said. "It's just a case of cultural differences between officials from the police, the TNI, the Attorney General's Office and other civil servants who are stationed here."

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