Thu, 11 May 2000

Legislators mixed on abolition of civilian guards

JAKARTA (JP): Mixed responses greeted on Wednesday the idea to abolish civilian guards affiliated to political parties and mass organizations.

Legislator Heri Akhmadi of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) agreed that the civilian guards, including those of his party, should be disbanded lest they threaten the process of democracy.

"I personally agree with disbanding civilian guards since they could be used to pressure people outside and inside their organizations. It's not healthy for democracy," Heri told The Jakarta Post.

The National Commission on Human Rights and several other non- governmental organizations demanded the disbandment of civilian guards following Saturday's attack by Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) Banser guards on the Jawa Pos daily office in Surabaya over an erroneous report.

Heri said he would suggest the House discuss the existence of the civilian guards when it deliberates the review of the 1982 Law on National Defense. The deliberation is expected to begin when the House is back in session next week.

"We will propose regulations of the civilian guards," said Heri, who is also the secretary of PDI Perjuangan faction at the People's Consultative Assembly.

He regretted and condemned Banser's move which caused the daily to cancel its Sunday edition, but also criticized the daily for lack of professionalism. In its coverage on alleged corruption linked to NU leaders, the Jawa Pos quoted Tempo magazine which later apologized for mistakenly naming an official it believed was involved in graft.

Legislator Joko Susilo from the National Mandate Party (PAN) rejected any plan to disband civilian guards, but suggested that the guards stop wearing military-style uniforms.

"Let each organization decide whether to have a civilian task force. The guards will probably have to change their military- style outfits to a civilian uniform," said Joko, who is also an executive of Pemuda Muhammadiyah, a youth wing of the country's second biggest Muslim organization, Muhammadiyah.

He said Muhammadiyah would deploy its civilian guards, known as Kokam, during its congress here in July. There are between 150,000 and 250,000 people in Kokam.

Without revealing the purpose of the deployment, Joko said Kokam members would continue to wear their military-style uniforms while on duty.

Joko said he would suggest the House summon Banser's East Java leaders over the Jawa Pos incident.

"Their actions violated the basic right to information and freedom of the press," the member of the House Commission for security and political affairs said.

Separately, vice coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), Ikravany Hilman, urged on Wednesday political parties and organizations to dismiss their militant civilian guards.

"They just hamper the nation's efforts to carry out reform and democratization," he told a media briefing at the commission's headquarters.

"The government should look into the necessity of such military-like groups and their existence."

Meanwhile, NU's youth wing organization Ansor, which oversees Banser, regretted what it called disinformation which stated that NU followers caused the Jawa Pos to cancel publication on Sunday.

"It's the daily which stopped the edition. NU wanted the daily to run its Sunday edition and print an apology," Ansor said in a statement, a copy of which was made available to the Post.

Ansor alleged that over the last two years the Jawa Pos had published at least three inaccurate reports which had offended the largest Muslim organization.

It said the organization had repeatedly asked for an apology, but instead the daily continued to publish reports that discredited NU leaders. (01/jun)