Fri, 21 Mar 2003

Certain police officers protect hoodlums, Koesparmono says

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A former prominent police officer said on Thursday that certaian officers in the force were providing security for high level gangster figures and warned that the widespread organized crime in the country was getting out of control.

"I think there are (many police officers in collusion with organized crime gangsters). But, I don't think the entire police force is," said Maj. Gen. (ret) Koesparmono Irsan, former National Police chief deputy for operational affairs, after a discussion on organized crime hosted by 68H news radio station on Thursday.

Koesparmono, who served with the police for over 30 years, admitted, however, that it was hard to pinpoint each of the officers who were part of the criminal underworld.

Koesparmono believed that in most developing countries, organized crime could only survive with the help of the authorities, such as the police, or other law enforcers or government officials.

Anton Medan, a gangster-turned-preacher, concurred, saying that many police, government officials and legislators regularly become protectors of the gangs throuhgout the country.

"That is particularly true in the provinces," said Anton, citing rampant illegal logging in several provinces in the country by organized gangsters who are in direct collusion with the authorities.

Anton said during the New Order era, there was only one really powerful thug organization, the youth wing of the then ruling Golkar party. The organization, he said, squeezed protection money from businesspeople.

"Currently, the condition is getting worse because most big political parties have such an organization. Police usually back them because they are close to power," he said, adding that flourishing 'private gangster organizations' are also backed by police.

He suggested that all political parties disband their so- called youth wings or task forces which often are offically described as a private security group for campaign rallies and other large party functions.

However, criminologist Adrianus Meliala, who is also an adviser to Police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar, suggested that the police should just work to control, to an acceptable level each of these organized crime gangs rather than trying to liquidate them.

"I don't think we can afford the social costs (if the authorities disbanded the gangster groups)," he said, referring to the current uncontrolled thuggery exemplified by the recent attack by several of businessman Tomy Winata's men and apparently the youth wing of the current ruling party against Tempo magazine offices.

Koesparmono, Anton and Rasyid Harsuna Loebis of the Indonesian Police Watch, strongly urged the National Police to investigate the Tempo incident and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law, all the perpetrators and their bosses.

"The police must be honest about investigating this case. Otherwise, it will serve as another bad precedent. The police have no other option but to investigate this case seriously," Koesparmono said.

Separately, the Press Council urged Da'i to get more serious about managing the increased violence against the press.

Press Council Chairman Atmakusumah Astraatmadja said there had been four cases of violations against the press reported to the council in recent weeks.