Markus Junianto Sihaloho
Indonesia tightened its grip on financial transactions on Tuesday as the nation introduced its first law aimed at choking off funding for radical organizations, marking what supporters called a key step in combatting domestic terrorism.
The House of Representatives passed the bill into law on Tuesday, introducing harsh penalties for individuals and companies convicted of funding terrorist activity. Supporters called the bill a crucial component in the nation’s ongoing battle against terrorism.
“[This law] will strengthen our international cooperation when cracking down on terrorism funding [from overseas],” Justice and Human Rights Minister Amir Syamsuddin said.
Indonesia, which has increased efforts to combat domestic terrorism in recent years, hasn’t suffered a large-scale attack since the 2009 twin bombings of the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton Hotels in Jakarta.
But in the past year, the nation has witnessed a surge in terrorist plots aimed at law enforcement as suicide bombers and gunmen attacked police officers in towns in Java, Sulawesi and Papua. Other groups targeted locations in Jakarta and Depok in unsuccessful bomb plots.
Adang Daradjatun, the committee chairman, said the law allows law enforcement to flag the bank accounts and freeze the assets of those suspected of funding terrorism in Indonesia and abroad. The bill, while allowing the government to tighten its grip on money transfers, won’t affect the average citizen, he said.
“The idea is that while this legislation calls for tighter supervision of financial transactions, it won’t inconvenience the general public, but only those who are involved in terrorist activities,” Adang said.
Adang, a former deputy chief of the National Police, said his committee had scrutinized the bill to ensure that it did not infringe on civil or human rights.
“It provides legal protection to citizens, so that in the event that their bank accounts are blocked on suspicion of terrorism-related funding or they are blacklisted as suspected terrorists, both of which require the authorities to obtain court warrants, the individuals in question can go to court to challenge the decisions,” he said.
Among the key provisions in the new law is an article stipulating a maximum prison sentence of 15 years for anyone convicted of funding or attempting to fund terrorist activity, while conspiring with others to fund terrorist activity carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Companies convicted of similar offenses face fines of up to Rp 100 billion ($10.4 million) as well as the possibility of having their assets seized by the state, their permits rescinded or even of being dissolved.
The law also requires banks and other financial services providers, as well as the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK), the government’s anti-money-laundering watchdog, to be more thorough about analyzing and flagging suspicious transactions.
Foreign governments can also ask Indonesian authorities to freeze the accounts of foreign individuals or companies suspected of involvement in terrorist activities.
The bill was passed into law one day after a House special committee agreed to bring it before Tuesday’s session. Indonesia was one of two G-20 nations without a law preventing the funding of terrorist activities.