Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific

College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

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Indonesian – Penangkalan

May 27th, 2011 · No Comments · Deterrence, Indonesian


Relates to deterrence; prevention

Even though the concept has been used and understood mostly by the limited communities who deal with international relations and military affairs, the Indonesian language has a problem translating the term ‘deterrence’.  Almost all written materials would use the English term ‘deterrence’ or if they give a translation, the English word always follows in brackets.  ‘Deterrence’ has usually been translated into either penangkalan or penggentaran.

The verb menangkal means ‘to avoid’ or ‘to ward off’, whereas the noun penangkal which means ‘talisman’ or ‘amulet’ is also used to translate, for instance ‘anti-missile tanks’ is literally translated as tank penangkal peluru kendali.  The popular word cekal is an acronym for cegah (prevent) and tangkal (ward off) which refers to the government policy to prevent black-listed persons from entering or leaving the country.  Penangkalan as the translation of deterrence is mostly used in military domain and recently has been considered inadequate to translate ‘deterrence’ because of its mainly military implication; therefore, deterrence as a political means of pressuring other country is actively avoided in ASEAN community as it is assumed that the ASC would not use military pressure against each other. (See Security Community)

Penggentaran comes from the adjective gentar (afraid) where the verb menggentarkan means ‘to make somebody afraid’. However, it has only been fairly recently that it has been utilised as an Indonesian translation of deterrence.  Observers have raised questions as to the appropriateness of the use of the term ‘deterrence’ in the Indonesian context since most security concerns are more about internal security rather than international relations. There is a concern that the meaning of deterrence is twisted to prevent internal conflicts as well as to create and maintain stability within the country, hence, making opposition groups and critics the main targets of military action.

Observers also suggest that in the confrontation against radical Islamic terror and ‘asymmetric warfare’, the role of deterrence has been largely neglected. In part, this reflects the continuation of the distaste for policies based on retaliation and the use of hostages, but it is also the result of the often-assumed belief that terrorists such as bin Laden and members of groups such as Hamas, Hizbullah, and Islamic Jihad are suicidal and cannot be deterred.




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