Indonesia has no laws to compel detained terrorists to undergo rehabilitation programmes, and those who do so attend voluntarily, the former commander of the country's elite counter- terrorism task force, Detachment 88, said in Singapore yesterday.
Dr Muhammad Tito Karnavian, who now supervises counter-terrorism efforts, described this as "another challenge for us". But he said there have been promising results from among those who went through the programme and returned to society.
"Of course, we have some who are still quite radical. We're not giving up, of course. We're still approaching them," he said at a seminar on The New Threat Landscape, organised by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) and Singapore Press Holdings.
Dr Tito was asked about Indonesia's rehabilitation programme, in the light of reports about the release of jailed militants over the next two years in Indonesia, and the adequacy of efforts to deradicalise and rehabilitate them.
He said the programme was voluntary as "we don't have a law to push them to join this kind of programme". "This is because of the democratic society we have today - people demand more democracy, more freedom, less intervention from government and so on."
He added that the National Counter-Terrorism Agency undertakes programmes which include community engagement to counter ideology, including what is accessible via social media and the Internet.
Earlier, he told about 150 participants, including diplomats and students, that at least 985 suspects have been dealt with since the 2002 Bali bombings.
There are 26 detained and under investigation; 32 on trial; 281 in prison; 97 killed during operations and raids; 12 who died in suicide bombings; three executed under capital punishment; 451 released after serving jail terms; and 83 acquitted due to the lack of evidence.
Responding to a question, Dr Tito said that while there have been improvements to monitoring the movement of illegals and others, the task has not been easy, given Indonesia's size and long border. This is why the authorities work with counterparts in neighbouring countries and use intelligence operations to monitor networks, he added.
Speaking earlier, former deputy prime minister and home affairs minister Wong Kan Seng said threats from groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extend far beyond the areas they currently operate, and Singapore is not immune.
Hence, the vigilance of security services against threats "must ultimately be augmented by the vigilance of the society itself".
Singapore has been fortunate to have the support of Muslim religious leaders and scholars, volunteers and others to build trust and resilience in society. This ensured a strong foundation of communal trust and social cohesion which will help Singapore, and Singaporeans, stay alert.
But Mr Wong worries the public might think the Syrian conflict and ISIS threat are far away and will not affect Singapore.
"The irony is, the more successful we are in our counter-terrorism efforts, the more the urgency and cogency of the terrorism threat will diminish in the public's consciousness."
The measures that speakers suggested to deal with the terrorism threat included cooperation and information sharing among intelligence agencies, border controls, and strong legislation on social media. Speakers included terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna of RSIS.
The seminar ended with the launch of a book, Old Wars, New Methods, by former Straits Times senior writer M. Nirmala.
The book, which details new developments of the terror threat, is published by The Straits Times Press. It costs $15 (including GST), and will be available at major bookstores from today.
This article was first published on November 19, 2014.
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