Fri, 30 Nov 2001

Gen. Da'i sworn in as National Police chief

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja and Abu Hanifah, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

General Da'i Bachtiar was sworn in as the new National Police chief on Thursday amid protests by members of the House of Representatives (DPR) pleading for more time to study his capability to lead the police force.

In a brief ceremony attended by ministers, military officers and other VIPs at the State Palace on Thursday, President Megawati Soekarnoputri administered the oath of office to Da'i and officially relieved Bimantoro of his duties.

Just a few hours earlier, the House approved his appointment, despite protests from several parties saying that Da'i had gone through a "special process" without the proper steps to examine his capacity for the important position.

Da'i, who already holds the rank of general, was the sole candidate from the president and according to the amended 1945 Constitution, the House should give its approval for the appointment of national police chief.

The plenary meeting, for his approval at the House, was marred by interruptions from legislators of the Reform faction who reminded the House that it should be given more time to review his career history and suitability for the position.

Da'i only went through one questioning session by the legislators on Monday.

However, after only a few debates most factions at the House agreed to approve the nomination on Thursday, while the State Secretary had already prepared the swearing-in ceremony on a day earlier.

House Speaker Akbar Tandjung, who also attended the ceremony said that the President thanked him for processing the Da'i appointment smoothly, so the President could swear him in on Thursday.

"In my meeting with the President, she thanked me for the House approval for the new police chief," Akbar said, after few minutes meeting with Megawati after the ceremony.

Da'i's appointment comes one day after Jakarta police arrested Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, fugitive son of the former president Soeharto, after a year-long of manhunt.

Da'i was tasked to immediately tighten discipline in the police force and improve morale as well as concentrate on many unsolved cases including the attack against the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) in 1996.

"I will put all cases as my main priorities, and at the same time conduct internal improvement of all police organizations," Da'i, who was still a three-star general as of Thursday morning, said after the ceremony.

Previously, several factions at the House rejected his nomination saying that he had a bad track record during his tenure as police detective and his recent service as East Java Police chief.

He is accused of human rights abuses as five pro-Abdurrahman Wahid demonstrators were killed by his subordinates in a huge demonstration in Bondowoso, East Java. They also revealed an apparent lack of success when investigating a 1999 scandal involving the misuse of billions of dollars in bank liquidity funds supplied by the central bank.

Da'i who served as head of police detectives with the National Police during the reform movement uprising in 1998 is under fire for his nomination to replace Bimantoro.