Fri, 08 Dec 2000

FPI to finally face action from police

JAKARTA (JP): After being seemingly helpless watching the spate of violent attacks on many nightspots by members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), the National Police finally announced that they would no longer tolerate the group's unlawful activities.

Spokesman Brig. Gen. Saleh Saaf warned that stern measures would be taken should the group launch any more attacks.

"If necessary, we will look into previous attacks (to bring the guilty FPI members to jail)," Saleh told reporters at his office.

"FPI's acts have cornered the police," Saleh said.

"They can't enforce law by breaking it. This nation is still based on law."

According to Saleh, the group had been violating Article 170 of the Criminal Code which can result in up to 12 years in jail.

The officer, unfortunately, would not give an explanation why police were unable to stop the violent attacks, which have disturbed foreign investors.

FPI members, usually attired in Muslim-style clothes and armed with sticks and swords, have stormed numerous entertainment centers and other businesses such as discotheques, pubs, and restaurants that they considered sinful.

They accused the establishments of being covers for offering sex services, drugs, gambling and alcoholic drinks.

In places they vandalized, people attempting to resist were struck down, forcing guests to flee for safety.

Their attacks peaked with the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadhan.

On Thursday morning, hundreds of FPI members attacked the Mickey Mouse pinball arcade at the food court of the Megamal Pluit shopping center in Pluit, North Jakarta.

The group claimed that the arcade had been used for gambling. They vandalized the arcade and 40 pinball machines and injured six security personnel guarding the arcade. Two FPI members were cut by broken glass.


"Police have detained 58 people from FPI for questioning," Saleh said, adding that the arcade was actually closed when the group stormed the place.

Thamrin Djarmain, director of city-run PT Pembangunan Pluit Jaya, which is in charge of the development of Pluit area, said that the arcade was a property of the city government that had been closed since September.

"The place was leased to an individual three years ago for karaoke business," Thamrin told reporters at the city hall.

"But it was sealed because the tenant converted it into a pinball arcade," he said, adding that the tenant had been operating the pinball business secretly.

Thamrin demanded the tenant repair the damage caused by the Muslim group.

Some accused FPI of attacking the arcade because the operator refused to pay the "security fee".

But leaders of the front strongly denied the allegation, saying that such accusations were totally baseless.

The group's violent acts have drawn protests from many Muslim activists, saying that what the group did by raiding the entertainment centers, destroying property and injuring people, was purely criminal.

Muslim activists including executive of the Muhammadiyah Muslim Youth Association (PP Muhammadiyah) Nadjamuddin Ramly and former chairman of the Indonesian Muslim Students Association (HMI) Ridwan Saidi urged police to take a stern measures against the FPI.

Governor Sutiyoso has also asked the city police to stop the attacks on entertainment centers.

Sutiyoso said that, although the city administration had established the tripartite security system, involving officers from the police, the military and city public order officials, it was still the responsibility of the police to arrest those who commit acts of violence.

FPI executive Reza Pahlevi has repeatedly insisted that the group would continue attacking such places even if the police tried to stop them.

"If the authorities stand in our way, so be it. If you live in nobility, you'll die as a syuhada (a person who dies for Islam)," Reza said.(jaw)