Mon, 17 Sep 2001

Agency under fire over proposal to buy 60 guns

JAKARTA (JP): The City Public Order Office's plan to buy 60 more guns is an indication that it has declared "war" against its own residents, especially the disadvantaged, activists said on Saturday.

Interviewed separately by The Jakarta Post, non-governmental organization Urban Poor Consortium (UPC) chairwoman Wardah Hafids and head of the urban division of the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute Tubagus Karbyanto urged the administration to cancel the plan.

"It is a declaration of a war against its own residents and sadly, people's money will be used to buy the guns.

"All people should protest the plan," said Wardah, whose UPC members include thousands of the city's disadvantaged people, including pedicab drivers.

She claimed that the office planned to be more repressive its public order operations.

Such operations, including those against becak (pedicab) drivers, will not solve the problem, she said, adding that instead it would meet more resistance from the poor.

She also urged the central government to order the city administration to cancel the gun purchase and to end its public order operations.

Tubagus Karbyanto supported Wardah's statement, saying the plan to buy more guns also showed the "militaristic" manner of Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso, who is a former Jakarta Military commander.

"We know that Sutiyoso has a military background. He seems to like to solve the pedicab problem with violence," Tubagus said.

He said the plan to buy more guns would create new problems, such as personnel misfiring since they were not well trained.

He also said the police should not issue permits to public order officers before they undergo training as well as shooting and psychological tests.

"Shooting the wrong target can easily happen under certain psychological conditions," Tubagus said.

The plan to buy guns for public order operations was revealed on Friday by the office. Pedicab drivers have been frequent targets of the operations, many of which have been marred with scuffles.

A civilian defense officer named Matsani was mobbed and beaten to death during a clash following an operation against becak last month.

Last year, the office bought some 60 German-made gas pistols and rubber bullet pistols priced at Rp 22 million each. The city spent at least Rp 3 billion for the guns and officers' training.

The 2001 city budget allocates at least Rp 36 billion for public order operations against pedicab drivers, street vendors and prostitutes, both female and transvestite.

The huge sum of money has become a topic of dispute among the officers, as well as the police, who are involved in the raids.

An official, who refused to be named, complained on Friday that the chief of public order operations of the East Jakarta mayoralty had not paid some 1,000 public order officers who took part in raids against pedicab drivers recently.

The official said the chief had taken some Rp 95 million out of Rp 115 million allocated for the operations. (jun)