The news of Osama bin Laden’s death was received across most of Southeast Asia in a predictable pattern.
Singapore’s first reaction to bin Laden’s death was to emphasise the need for “continued vigilance and cooperation by all countries" against the “complex and long-term challenges [of] terrorism and the ideologies that perpetuate it.” The City-State is the first Southeast Asian country to have alerted the world about the existence of Jemaah Islamiyah as a suspected regional affiliate of al Qaeda.
Malaysia, a proactive member of the Organisation of Islamic Conference, called for an understanding of the root causes of terrorism. However, Indonesia, another active member of the group, besides being a theatre of al Qaeda-inspired and local militancy, struck a posture of security preparedness.
Both Malaysia and Indonesia pledged to ensure security, especially at the foreign embassies in Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta, respectively, in view of the perceived new risk of an al Qaeda backlash against some Western countries.
Malaysian Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein called for a renewed focus on the fundamental causes of terrorism. But he also expressed the “hope that Osama’s death will lead to greater peace and harmony in the world.” These “are the collective responsibility” of the international community.
In Indonesia, Mahfudz Siddiq, Chairman of the House of Representatives` Commission which deals with security and foreign affairs, said Osama’s death would not stop al Qaeda in its tracks, although its strength would be affected.
Close allies of the U.S., such as Japan and Australia, expressed solidarity with Washington and Islamabad. Going a step further, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced the “strengthening of counter-measures” for anti-terror vigil, such as “precautionary security measures … at borders.”
Mr. Kan said in Tokyo that his country “pays respect for the efforts of those parties concerned, such as the United States and Pakistan,” in the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Emphasising that his death would not spell the end of history in the domain of “counter-terrorism measures,” Mr. Kan said: “Acts of terror are still occurring in various places of the world, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And, the threat of terror is still serious. It is [therefore] necessary for the international community to continue to closely watch the activities of Al-Qaeda, and [also] maintain sustained efforts, cooperating closely. It is also necessary for the international community to cooperate closely towards the stabilisation and reconstruction of Afghanistan.” He also recalled Japan’s calibrated cooperation with the U.S. in its pursuit of an “anti-terror” agenda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Speaking in Canberra, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard pledged to “continue the mission in Afghanistan” as a U.S. ally. Although Australian lives were already lost in that mission, “that work is vital.” The shared objective was to ensure that Afghanistan would not again become a haven for terrorists, she said.
On the business front in East Asia, there was a general spurt in sentiment in several stock exchanges. However, not all exchanges were open because of the May Day holidays.