Getting ready to start to prepare to…

Three years ago, Australia and Indonesia herded the key countries of the region into an anti-terrorist meeting. The purpose was “to focus regional cooperation and coordination to counter-terrorism in Southeast Asia.”

What a good idea.

Everyone agreed on the necessity to put pressure on Jemaah Islamiyah, the al-Qaeda subsidiary that is the chief international terrorist threat in this part of the world. Everyone agreed cooperation was the key. Everyone agreed there had to be financial intelligence to find and cut off money laundering that finances regional terrorism.

Fast forward three years. On March 4, Australia and Indonesia will host a Regional Ministerial Meeting on Counter-Terrorism.

From the 33 countries of 2004, just a handful of ministers want to spend a couple of days in Jakarta, now: the hosts, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore. That’s it for foreign ministers, plus the senior minister of Singapore, i.e. former prime minister Goh Chok Tong.

Everyone else at the meeting is from the lightweight division.

The hoopla for the meeting is underwhelming to say the least. According to the transcribed press release puffery put out by the Indonesian foreign ministry and dutifully transcribed by news agencies the world over like this one:

Ansyaad Mbai of the anti-terrorism desk of the Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs said over the weekend that the government was exploring the possibility of cooperating with a number of Muslim countries to reduce radicalism and terrorism

The Muslim countries are Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Really.

In three years, the idea of close cooperation to guard Southeast Asia against the highly murderous and professional terrorist organisation Jemaah Islamiyah is a woolly concept that maybe at some point between getting out of the nice Jakarta hotel beds and feasting on Indonesian and Australian taxpayers’ dinners, ministers and minions will think about perhaps getting ready to consider whether to start to study to take into account whether to talk with three Arab countries everyone already has diplomatic relations with anyhow.

This is because, you know, there’s all this radicalism and terrorism going around. And this:

He said the anti-terrorism program which was already being carried out in a number of countries including Europe and the United States was intended to clarify the real meaning of Islam, especially in regard to the concept of jihad (holy war).

Yes. Who can argue? Western countries which are prime terrorist targets are debating and discussing (and rejecting) the use of Islam as a justification for mass murder. And “countries such as Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia” could use a heck of a lot more of that. Yes. Who wouldn’t agree?

This takes five foreign ministers and an even higher ranking Singaporean? This takes the three years since the first meeting, to get ready for this? This is the most important item in stopping terrorist training camps in the Philippines, religious killings in Indonesia and Thailand, schools that teach hate throughout the region?

Talk about getting sidetracked.

Why don’t they just put out a press release saying they want a couple of days away from the office, and they’re going to go to Jakarta for a long weekend?

If anything actually comes out of this meeting, wake me up and tell me, please.


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