TIME: What measures will you take to deal with terrorism in Indonesia?
SBY: We will improve the capabilities of our intelligence, police and immigration officers as well as our ability to detect terrorist activities in the provinces. I'll ask the people and the provincial governments to do the same, so any terrorist movements that we are not aware of will not have a chance to grow. This information will be passed on to police and intelligence authorities for the purpose of early detection. If there are areas that are suspected of having ties to terrorist activities, I'm certain that by taking these steps we'll be able to prevent the growth of terrorism in Indonesia.
TIME: Should Jemaah Islamiah (the network of Islamic militants blamed for a spate of bombings in Indonesia) or any pesantren (religious boarding schools) suspected of terrorist activities be banned?
SBY: Based on early intelligence reports, we first have to look at areas that are suspected of having terrorist activities so that, without the president having to say that legal steps need to be taken toward pesantren A or pesantren B, action will have already been taken. And if there is enough proof then definitive legal steps will be taken. This will require communication and the right approach so that law enforcement will not be misunderstood (or misinterpreted) as the government doing something that is unfair toward certain individuals or religious schools. I will soon review the steps being taken to deal with terrorism by the judicial, intelligence and police bodies to determine what actions need to be taken to eliminate terrorism, including the position of Jemaah Islamiah and places suspected of having ties to terrorism. After the review, if there are explanations and proof that JI as an organization does exist in Indonesia, and if it is legally proven that its members are involved in terrorist activities, then it will be declared a banned organization. We will use the legal process in order for this to become a legal and law enforcement issue, not a political one.
TIME: Will the reduction in the country's huge fuel subsidies be a top priority for your government given the pressures they put on the budget during a time of rising oil prices? Are you concerned with that price hikes could set off cause violent social unrest, as they have in the past?
SBY: I've asked the relevant ministers in my cabinet to conduct an analysis of the impact of fuel prices on the budget and the subsidy policy. I've also asked them to review the 2005 budget. If the high price of fuel seriously burdens the budget in terms of subsidies I will have to set a policy for the future. That policy might affect the price of certain fuels, particularly those that are not consumed by the poor. Kerosene and diesel would still be subsidized, while premium gas would no longer be subsidized. After I've received reports on this in the next few days and if I choose to go with the policy that the price of premium gas has to be raised, we will then decide by how much and when. Clearly our budget has to be safe and fiscally sustainable, but the poor also need to be protected. Whatever the policy taken, the poor will be protected.
TIME: Are you concerned that the recent case of five Newmont mining executives being detained for a month by police because of suspected pollution by the company could hurt the investment climate in Indonesia?
SBY: The Chief of Police reported to me three days ago about the Newmont case. I asked that the legal process be carried out fairly. If the handling of the case is carried out fairly, without any political interference, and is acceptable to all parties, it will be good for the business and investment climate. I have asked that all the evidence be considered in court so that the court decision will be a fair and accurate one. We want all the involved parties to be able to follow the proceedings transparently so there won't be any deviation in the legal process.
TIME: Indonesia ranks as one of the world's most corrupt countries, and also one of the most difficult places to do business. How will you deal with these problems?
SBY: The eradication of corruption will be my priority over the next five years. We have to eradicate it structurally and culturally. I've ordered the police and the attorney-general that any corruption cases once held up be started again. I've also asked that preventative steps be put in place at all levels of government and that my office, the vice-president, ministers and governors be seen as clean in order for them to eradicate corruption in their own offices. I've also asked that the same steps be taken at the provincial government level. I've also asked the attorney-general to take legal action against any banks that are unhealthy or where there are indications of corruption, regardless of who is behind them. This country will be destroyed if we do not stop the growth of corruption. There needs to be some shock therapy so that the people know that this government is serious about corruption.
TIME: There are still numerous reports of human rights abuses in Aceh at the hands of the military. What can be done to improve their human rights record and stop the abuses?
SBY: The military's respect for human rights is getting better. The number of cases of human rights abuses in conflict areas is much less now. If there's still violation in places like Aceh and Papua we will hold military trials. None of these cases will be delayed or suspended just because they're in operational areas. We want to keep improving the military and police's respect for human rights.
TIME: Should the military be placed under the Defense Ministry to ensure greater civilian control?
SBY: This is a time of political transition. At the right time the military has to be placed beneath the Defense Ministry to ensure that politicians are the policymakers and that the Defense Minister determines the military policy and budget. But we have to make sure that a civilian Defense Minister knows how to separate military and political matters. As long as the military is not under the Defense Ministry, I will make sure that communication and coordination is solid between the defense minister and the military and that it is the defense minister formulating strategy and budget policy for the military. In the meantime the armed forces must follow policy set out by the President through the defense minister. What we don't want is for the military to be used for any political interests. This will be counter-productive to the growth of democracy in Indonesia.
TIME: Will you consider restarting negotiations with the Free Aceh Movement given that the separatist struggle there continues?
SBY: The current operation under way in Aceh must be maintained because if there were to be a vacuum in power a new threat to security could arise. But there should also be a new approach and concept toward finding a peaceful solution. There are signs that a peaceful solution can be reached. There is an opportunity for us to end the conflict in Aceh with a new policy. I appeal to the leaders of the separatists to reunite [with Indonesia], its soldiers to come out [from hiding] and disarm. That would be the end of the armed struggle and allow for special autonomy to be carried out. In consultation with Parliament, I will give amnesty to those who voluntarily surrender.
TIME: Is being president what you expected it to be? Are you having fun?
SBY: Oh, yes of course. But for me it's not a matter of fun but of responsibility. A challenge, a responsibility, a mission and of course an education. I will do my best but I know that it's not really easy. There are so many fundamental issues that I have to face.