Sat, 11 Nov 2000

Over 4,000 Kamra members question their future

YOGYAKARTA (JP): More than 4,000 members of police-sponsored civilian militia, known as Keamanan Rakyat or Kamra, took to the streets in Yogyakarta on Friday querying about their future as their working contract with then Ministry of Security and Defense will terminate on Dec. 31.

The demonstrators representing Kamra members in Java, Bali, East Nusa Tenggara and South Sumatra gathered at the Yogyakarta provincial legislative council building yard, urging the central government to pay attention to them.

Many of the protesters from outside Java arrived in Yogyakarta on Thursday and had spent the night at the legislative council building compound.

The non-violent protest started at 9 a.m. with requests for jobs. They carried banners reading We want certainty, We are dreaming of becoming policemen, servicemen or civil servants.

National Coordinator of Kamra Rubiyanto said he and his fellow Kamra members would stay at the compound until the government fulfilled their demands.

"We pledge to stay to the end," said Rubiyanto.

Meanwhile the Central Java Kamra coordinator Prihanto said the Kamra members were ready for selection tests to become policemen or servicemen. "We had passed certain tests before being inaugurated as Kamra members. Nevertheless, we are ready for another test. The promise to give us first priority in police or military recruitment was just lip service," Prihanto said.

Yogyakarta Governor Sultan Hamengkubuwono X met with the protesters and provided drinks.

A Kamra member of Central Java said that the government owed each Kamra member between Rp 5 million to Rp 6 million in monthly salaries and other allowances which had not yet been paid. "We don't want the money. We just want jobs for our future."

The sultan promised to accompany the protesters' representatives to convey their aspirations to the central government in Jakarta.

"I and other provincial officials will set up a special team for this," he said, which drew applause from the protesters.

"Please, I request each unit chief to make official letters authorizing me to represent you all, and write down clearly what you want," said the sultan.

In the West Java capital of Bandung hundreds of Kamra members also protested the government's lack of attention to them.

The protesters spokesman, Dadang, told reporters that they had lodged a complaint about their future to the provincial legislature, but no response had been made by the legislators.

The history

Kamra was established early last year under the initiative of then Minister of Security and Defense Gen. Wiranto.

Wiranto argued at that time that the Armed Forces (ABRI) needed help in enforcing law and restoring a sense of security among the public.

Wiranto is no longer heading the ministry and the police force is no longer under the auspices of the Ministry of Security and Defense.

Hot debates had taken place between Wiranto's office and the House of Representatives about the plan on Kamra.

Wiranto once told a hearing with the House that the plan was part of ABRI's anticipatory action to help create feeling of security in society as well as to maintain stability.

"Crimes, including riots, looting and arson are expected to soar because of economic hardship and people's ignorance of the law," the general said in a hearing in January last year.

On Thursday, Wiranto told reporters in Yogyakarta that he no longer had the right to say anything about Kamra.

Interviewed by reporters during his tour to promote his cassette at UNISI Radio Station, Wiranto recalled that the idea to set up the civilian militia was due to the fact that the number of police officers was too small compared to the population.

"Ideally the ratio between police officers and the people is 1:300, while it is now 1: 1,100 in Indonesia. If riots erupt, what could we do? Furthermore, many unemployed people have a good educational background. The Kamra project was expected to help curb the high unemployment rate," he said.

He said however that it would not be practical to channel members of Kamra into the police or military. "There was not any promise to do that. They just have priority when the military and the police force want to recruit new members." (23/sur)