JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – In an apparent gesture to ensure business confidence, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has reiterated his commitment to fight terrorism as he voiced support for reviving a special military unit.
Speaking alongside his Cabinet ministers during a breaking-the-fast event with businessmen on Friday (May 18) evening, Mr Joko expressed resentment towards a “vile terrorist ideology” that had forced families and children to become perpetrators, referring to recent terror attacks in Surabaya and Sidoarjo, East Java.
“The government and the House of Representatives are bending over backwards to ensure that the terrorism bill is completed,” he said in his speech.
“And the government is also in the process of establishing a Koopsusgab (Joint Special Operations Command) to provide security.”
His remarks seemed to confirm Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko’s claim that Mr Joko had expressed his consent to bringing back to life the joint command tasked with countering terrorism.
The team, which included and will again include personnel of the Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus), the Navy’s Denjaka specialised squad and the Air Force’s Bravo 90 special force, would be on standby and ready to be mobilised whenever terror threats emerged, Mr Moeldoko said.
The joint force was first established under Mr Moeldoko when he served as the Indonesian Military (TNI) commander in 2015. The special command’s operations, however, were suspended under the leadership of Mr Moeldoko’s successor, Gen (ret.) Gatot Nurmantyo.
On Friday, President Joko stressed that special military operations would only be conducted in situations exceeding the capacity of the National Police as a “preventive measure”, which he claimed was “more important than repressive action”.
“The best preventive (measure) is to clean up education institutions – from kindergarten level to college and public spaces and forums – from misguided ideology, which terrorism is,” he said.
Terror attacks on Sunday and Monday in Surabaya and Sidoarjo have claimed the lives of 25 people, including the suicide bombers and some of their children, and injured at least 41.
Attempted bombings were also reported at two other churches on Sunday morning, where bombs failed to detonate.
Hours after the church attacks, a bomb went off prematurely at a low-cost apartment building in Wonocolo, Sidoarjo, killing three members of a suspected terrorist’s family: the father, the mother and their eldest son.
At a seemingly coincidental moment, Indonesia is facing a lot of external pressure as the rupiah continues to weaken amid a stronger US dollar, forcing Bank Indonesia (BI) to increase its policy rate – the seven-day reverse repo rate – by 25 basis points to 4.5 per cent on Thursday evening.
Foreign funds are pulling out from the emerging market as United States’ Treasury bill yields continue to increase amid investors’ bullish sentiment over the prospects of the US Federal Reserve raising interest rates more than expected this year.
At least Rp 37.18 trillion (US$2.64 billion) in portfolio investment has been withdrawn from the domestic financial market from Jan. 2 to May 11, according to data from Bloomberg.
As BI had ended its easing stance, there may be no other way to push Indonesia’s economy, which grew by 5.06 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter, other than boosting fiscal stimulus to help drive consumption, said Rosan P. Roeslani, chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin), after attending Friday’s event with President Joko.
“We heard that Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad seeks to scrap the 6 per cent goods and services tax (GST). We don’t ask for that (from Jokowi’s administration), but we hope for a temporary (tax) incentive to lift purchasing power,” he said.
Bhima Yudhistira Adhinegara, an economist at the Institute for the Development of Economics and Finance (Indef), said the government should use fiscal incentives to boost industrialisation, which would help reduce Indonesia’s high reliance on exports of natural resource commodities.