Sat, 22 Feb 2003

Military, police uniforms openly traded in Jakarta

Evi Mariani, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Equipped with about Rp 300,000 (about US$33.70), anybody can buy a head-to-toe police or military uniform, including cap, long- sleeved shirt with all the trimmings, trousers, belt and shiny boots. All are available in one well-known market in Central Jakarta.

Buyers can name the desired rank and whether they want to be soldiers or police officers. And those who have ambitions of having subordinates can buy insignias indicating that they are commanders.

Customers need not worry if they have no knowledge of the proper insignias and badges for certain ranks and units because the shop assistants will kindly assist their customers.

"Put this 'Metro Jaya' badge along with the 'Polda' emblem on the right arm. And these 'Jakarta' and 'Sabhara' emblems go on the left sleeve," a shop assistant said, producing a sample of the correct emblem layout.

Pointing at a gold band on a police cap, the shop assistant advised, "An officer's cap has this gold band, that of a soldier has a silver band."

Most of the shops selling police and military uniforms have a wide collection of emblems and pins, and anyone can buy them for any purpose because the shop assistants usually do not ask too many questions about the buyer.

Officially, any person wanting to open a military or police uniform shop must have a license, issued by the proper military or police authority. And shop assistants are supposed to ask buyers to prove there are legitimate members of the military or police force by producing official ID cards.

Besides the shops selling the uniforms to anybody without asking for a legitimate military/police ID card, there are also shops that claim they only sell uniforms to noncivilians.

However, once these cards are shown, these noncivilian buyers can buy anything in any desired number.

"As long as they can show a legitimate military/police ID card, they can buy anything, as many as they want. The more they buy, the better for me," said Parto (not his real name), owner of a uniform shop in the market.

Apparently there is no effective regulation on trading in uniforms. Prevailing regulations, which require shops to be licensed and buyers to be able to produce military/police ID cards, do not impose any strong sanctions on violators.

The authorities also do not carry out any serious surveillance on the trading.

Hendra, who runs his uncle's uniform shop, said he sells uniforms only to buyers who can produce authentic ID cards because he is afraid of being raided by the authorities.

However, uniform shops rarely face such a risk.

Hendra said that in all the three years he had helped his uncle run the shop, he had never been raided.

Certainly, police and military personnel who visit the market to buy uniforms pay no attention to whether or not the shops possess a license. Some of them shop in stores that do not have a license.

Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Prasetyo, responding to public complaints of bogus policemen operating in Jakarta, earlier conceded that there was no regulation governing the buying and selling of military and police uniforms and all the trimmings.

As a consequence, the unrestrained trading is open to abuse. Recently, the Jakarta Metropolitan Police recorded several cases of fraudsters wearing police uniforms stopping motorists on the street, then taking away their possessions.

The uniform shop assistants clearly realize this negative potential.

"Please don't use the uniform to pose as a bogus policeman," one shop assistant cautioned a buyer with no ID, with concern in her eyes.