Interview with Rizal Sukma,
Yuli Ismartono [time 28:06]
29th January 2008,
Yuli Ismartono:Rizal, thank you for being with us today.
Rizal Sukma: Thank you. It's my pleasure.
YI: In one of your papers, you say that Indonesia faces seven non-traditional security threats. Which one in your opinion deserves the most attention?
Rizal Sukma: When you look at all the seven issues, it's quite difficult to say which one is the most important because within this context we are facing all these problems at the same time. But of course, there are a number of issues out those seven that we need to really pay attention to in the short term. One of them is the threat of terrorism, even though we know that the threat itself has been in decline. But we don't know exactly to what extent this terrorism no longer poses a serious threat to Indonesia. The other issue is the drive for energy. Today, we're already talking about having a nuclear power plant and so on. The safety aspect of this, I think, is very important for us.
YI: You say terrorism in Indonesia is in decline, but it still exists in other part of Asia, like in southern Philippines and southern Thailand, and reports say they are well-connected to terrorism cells in Indonesia.
Rizal Sukma: I think we have to make a distinction between ideological-based terrorism network and terrorist attacks based on separatist ideas, because the ideological-based terrorist networks pose a greater threat compared to those sporadic attacks that target civilians, cases like in southern Thailand or in Mindanao. In our case, Indonesia was --I'm not sure whether it still is-- the hub for this regional network of terrorist organizations, which actually have links with some groups within Southeast Asia, the way they train together and so on. But I'm not sure whether those kinds of links exist between the regional terrorist networks with the global ones. I think the link is only ideological and inspirational, rather than real links where they (members) actually work together.
YI: So, the conclusion is that in Indonesia, terrorism has declined but we still must be alert?
Rizal Sukma: Yes. Decline in the sense of the number of attacks, but of course, the terrorist networks will always try to consolidate. Here, my main worry is that basically we tend to be complaisant, and that is the space the terrorists actually need in order to consolidate and emerge again, and pose an even more serious threat.
YI: Do you agree with some assumptions that terrorism is closely linked with the economic situation in the country? That poverty breeds terrorism?
Rizal Sukma: Only at one level. But I don't think poverty is the cause of terrorism. I do think that poverty can provide a very fertile breeding ground for the foot soldiers within a terrorist network. So, yes, it actually helps the recruitment process, but the root cause is much wider than only the issue of poverty. If we say that poverty is the cause of terrorism, that means there should be around 2.5 billion terrorists in the world, because these are people who live below the poverty line. But the violence, the interpretation of a certain ideology or religious teachings, I think, should also be part of these terrorist ideas.
YI: You also mention the growing demand of energy as one potential threat. Now we are thinking of developing nuclear energy. But we have oil, we have coal and we're rich in gas.
Rizal Sukma: That's exactly the point I'm trying to make. We still haven't explored alternative sources, yet we've already decided that by 2012 we will start to generate nuclear power as a source of energy. But, until today, there is not enough debate yet --both within the government and the society at large-- about the safety dimensions of that decision, especially if we now realize that Indonesia is basically almost like an encyclopedia of disasters. You name any kind of disaster, it has most probably occurred in the country. So how can we be assured that nuclear power plants in a country that is situated in a ring of fire can be safe. That's number one. This is not to mention all the security implications, not only (in terms of) safety, but the stockpiling and so on, which are still in question. In fact, many people joke that if we cannot even manage the trains well enough, how can we manage nuclear power plants?