Remarks of Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono President of the Republic of Indonesia At the opening of The International Seminar On Building International Cooperation Against Terrorism Jakarta, 27 February 2006


Assalamu’alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,
Distinguished speakers,
Esteemed participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me begin by welcoming all of you to Jakarta, Indonesia, in the midst of a very wet rainy season.  To all our foreign guests, I assure you that while the weather is soggy, you will find that Indonesian hearts remain warm in welcoming you.

This is an important international gathering of law enforcement officials and experts of terrorism from 41 countries from all over the world. 

You all have different backgrounds but you have come here for one single purpose : to strengthen our international cooperation to prevent and fight and defeat the greatest threat to our common humanity-- the threat of terrorism. 

And as many of us have experienced, terrorism attacks us in many different ways : it threatens the physical security of our citizens, it undermines the values of our nation, it can damage our economy, it can harm social fabric, and it can even cause strategic tension between nations.

Each of us has been affected differently by terrorism, but in the end we are all in this together, and therefore we must work together to fight terrorism.

You will no doubt understand why this is such an important conference for Indonesia.  For we in Indonesia have suffered from a series of major terrorist attacks : the string of bombs which exploded in Jakarta and Medan and others in 2000, the Bali bomb of 12 October 2002, the bomb at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta in 2003, and the following year at the gates of the Australian Embassy, and the second Bali bomb last year. 

We endured all this while we were trying to build our new democracy, recover from our economic crisis, and resolve ethnic conflicts. 

Indeed, when the first bombs exploded in December 2000, we not only found ourselves estranged in an unfamiliar security challenge, but we also found ourself very much alone, without much international notice let alone cooperation in dealing with those bombs.  Today, we found ourselves in an entirely different security environment, where terrorist attacks against Indonesia is met with swift international response and cooperation—the way it should be, not just for Indonesia, but for all nations.

Because of our experience, Indonesia therefore is a frontline state when it comes to fighting terrorism.  Terrorism is a clear and present danger to our people, and it has been a top priority for our national security policy.  

We have made significant gains in our counter-terrorism efforts : most of the Bali bombers have been identified and arrested, and tried according to our laws.  The same is true for the Marriot and Kuningan bombers.  Recently, we dealt a huge blow to their operational capability by the death of Dr. Azahari and some of his associates in East Java.  We are now actively looking for the remaining terrorists : Nurdin Mohammad Top, Dulmatin, and others.  Of course, the fact that they are on the run does not make them any less dangerous.

But despite these successes, we must remain vigilant about the security environment that is ahead of us.  Many of us probably have won battles against terrorism.  But we have not won the war.  We must retrench and prepare  ourselves for a long-term campaign, and we must not let ourselves be distracted—as we sometimes do--from reaching our ultimate objective : the defeat of terrorism.

Fighting terrorism is new to many of us.  The terrorists of today are different from the terrorists of yesteryear.  Today’s terrorists may be as ideological and radical as their predecessors 2 or 3 decades ago, but today they are generally more adaptable, more resilient, more autonomous, more creative, more “techno-minded”, and more determined to launch spectacular attacks with no regard whatsoever for casualties, as they did during September-11 attacks.

For the law enforcement officers who operating on the ground, counter-terrorism is therefore an evolving science.  Because the terrorists are always changing strategy and tactics, there is always something new to learn about them.  What you know yesterday may not be as relevant today or tomorrow.  If the terrorists try to think one step ahead, we must two or three steps ahead. 

In most cases, local knowledge alone is not enough fight terrorist groups.  And in many cases, successes in apprehending terrorists are obtained only by way of cooperation between law enforcement agencies of different nations.

This is why international cooperation, more than ever, must be an integral part of how each and every nation deal with terrorism. 

Your challenge here today is to advance that international cooperation.  Your challenge at this Conference is to make an international cooperation to fight terrorism that is inclusive, resilient, adaptable, and most importantly, effective. 

As you bash your heads to build on that international cooperation, allow me to suggest a few points for the benefit of your discussions.

First, never forget that this is a battle for the “hearts and minds”.  The terrorists are small in number, and they are in hiding, but they constantly seek asymmterical political, psychological and security advantage over us.  Yes, they want to harm us, but  they want to radicalize our society, undermine our values, destabilize our community, because this is the best environment for them to grow. 

We must not loose this battle for the hearts and minds.  This is a battle that will require us to unleash a great deal of “soft power”, which include not just the realms of the economic, but also the realms of the intellectual and the spiritual.  This is a battle that requires us not just to advance freedom, but also to spread tolerance.  I have found that sometimes there is too much emphasis on “freedom” but not enough on “tolerance”. 

This is why it is so important for the informal leaders and average citizens of any given country to take part in the great battle of ideas, and to help spread the value of tolerance and respect for diversity.

This is why it is important for us to always erase the artificial dividing line that is often said to exist between the west and the Islamic world.

And this is why it is so critical for Governments, informal leaders, media and average citizens  to respond to the cartoon issue by vocally rejecting the offensive cartoons.  How we deal with the cartoon crisis today is an important lesson to how we will deal with future cartoon crises in different forms but perhaps with greater damage.  This is the perfect time to engage in soul-searching answers on how freedom of speech can proceed without offending religious sensitivity.  If we do not address this issue rightly, I fear that we will loose more people in the Islamic world in this battle for the hearts and minds.

The second point is this : while we are facing a terrorist threat with strong international dimension, never forget that the importance of local circumstances in our counter-terrorism calculations.  A good proportion of terrorist groups around the world come to form not necessarily because of an international event (although this can be a factor), but also because of local circumstances.  This can be a domestic grievance, internal conflicts, human rights problems, economic or social marginalization, and other things.  It is therefore critical for each and every nation to do their own “internal gardening”.  Again, here how do we our own internal gardening is different from one society to the next. 

Thirdly, promoting conflict resolution can be a tremendous value to counter-terrorism efforts.  This is because many terrorist groups out there that are related to a specific political conflict.  Thus, the resolution of conflicts in Sri Lanka, in Northern Ireland, in Southern Thailand, in southern Philippines, in Poso and Maluku, will greatly reduce the cycle of violence.  Here in Indonesia, we have seen how a peace deal in Aceh have led to the end of bloody violence.  This is, of course, the job for statemen, politicians and diplomats.

Fourthly, there is a need to translate political commitments to fight terrorism into practicable arrangements on the ground.  In the past few years, we have the region-wide and worldwide proliferation of MOUs, diplomatic agreements and joint statements to fight terrorism.  But it is no big secret that not all of them are being implemented.  On-the-ground information sharing and intelligence cooperation are often missing.  And as many of us found out through experience, achieving optimal DOMESTIC coordination between agencies is often hard, and I believe that this is true both for western countries as well as for developing countries. 
I think sorting out these practical arrangements, structural issues and internal mechanisms will be critical to the quality international cooperation that we are trying to build.

Finally, I do hope that our efforts to build an international coalition against terrorism can be done in ways which do not give rise to new tensions between nations, religious communities, and civilizations.  Building a international coalition of different countries, cultures and religions is hard enough.  We must make sure that this is done delicately, cautiously and juduciously.  At the end of the road, what we want to see is not just the defeat of terrorist groups, but a stronger international community bonded in greater stability, peace and cooperation.  One useful way to do this is by promoting and joining the inter-faith dialogues that are now proliferating within the international community.  Indonesia has made inter-faith dialogue a priority issue for our foreign policy.

Before concluding my remarks, let me express my appreciation to the Asia Crime Prevention Foundation and the Indonesian Crime Prevention Institute for initiating this international seminar. I am confident that our hard work will be beneficial to the progress of international cooperation in combating crime in general, and the crime of terrorism in particular.

Finally, by saying Bismillahirrahmanirrahim, I hereby declare the International Seminar open.
Thank you.

Wassalamu’alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh.