Mon, 24 Jan 2000

Police should maintain stability: Adm. Widodo

JAKARTA (JP): Indonesian Military (TNI) Commander Adm. Widodo A.S. has underlined the primacy of the role of the National Police in law enforcement, stressing that the military should focus primarily on national defense.

"The National Police must assume the main role as the backbone and cornerstone of law enforcement in maintaining stability and creating a sense of safety among the people," he said at a post- Idul Fitri gathering with members of the House of Representatives's Commission I on defense and security here on Sunday.

He barred the military from delving into the police's area of responsibility, contending they should only serve as additional reinforcements for police in emergencies.

Also present at Sunday's informal gathering were Army chief Gen. Tyasno Sudarto, Navy chief Adm. Sutjipto, Air Force deputy chief Vice Marshal I Gde Sudana, National Police chief Lt. Gen. Rusdihardjo and TNI chief of general affairs Lt. Gen. Suaidy Marasabessy.

"I think it is now time for all sides, including the military, to entrust the National Police to deal wholly with law enforcement matters," he said.

Prior to its separation from the Armed Forces, the police were considered subordinate to the military, particularly the Army, in many aspects, including in the functioning of its daily duties.

The military was considered to have a strong say in various legal and local matters, particularly through the wide-reaching influence of regional military commands and the presence of soldiers in rural areas.

"Besides taking strict action against law breakers, the National Police should be able to thoroughly investigate sectarian violence. Society is now challenging them to repair their image as law enforcers," he said.

National Police chief Rusdihardjo hailed Widodo's comments and pledged to make significant progress in law enforcement within the next three months.

He stressed that the police were in need of moral and political support to carry out this mission.

Rusdihardjo, who only recently took over the police's top job from Gen. Roesmanhadi, expressed his appreciation for the confidence and trust shown by the military chief.

"We will work hard and consolidate internally to develop our image," he said.


Rusdihardjo also called on members of the House and the government to give their full support to the proposed increase in the police's budget to enable it to recruit new personnel and improve its performance in the future.

"The police's present budget is very low and it is running short of personnel to carry out its numerous tasks nationwide," he said.

"The present number of police personnel is only around 225,000. This figure is very small compared to the country's size and population," he said.

The current ratio between police personnel and the population is 1:1,200. Rusdihardjo said the ideal ratio was 1:400.

The draft 2000 budget submitted by the government last week included a subsection for the allocation of the police's budget.

Rp 2.65 trillion was allocated for routine expenditure for the nine-month period covered by the budget. While for development spending, which usually denotes logistic and equipment procurement, Rp 127 billion.

By comparison, the military was allotted Rp 5.4 trillion for its routine expenditure and Rp 415.4 billion for development spending.

Rusdihardjo stressed that increases in police salaries and welfare would go a long way in motivating officers to enhance their performances.

"From a psychological view, it will be difficult for us to order our personnel to work hard if their minimum physical needs cannot be met (by their salaries)," he said.

"The government and the House, which are deliberating the state budget draft, should pay more attention to this matter," he said.

House Speaker Akbar Tandjung signaled the House's support for the police's budget.

"If objective conditions indicate the police's budget should be raised, the House will give its endorsement," said Akbar during a separate gathering here on Sunday.

He said the House would also support the military's internal reform that would see it return it to its defense function while the police handle law enforcement. (rms)