Mon, 13 Mar 2000

Police to get tough on drugs

JAKARTA (JP): Marking its massive campaign against illegal drugs, the National Police have taken initial internal law- enforcement measures against its low-ranking officers allegedly involved in drug abuse and trafficking.

National Police chief Lt. Gen. Rusdihardjo said on Saturday after addressing a seminar on drugs at private Trisakti University in West Jakarta, that "so far, the National Police have identified 56 officers, ranging in rank from second-sergeant to major, as being involved in drug cases nationwide."

The three-star general, however, did not disclose when and where the arrests took place.

"Some of the officers, who are young, are traffickers. But, mostly they are users," he said.

"Consuming drugs has become some youngsters' lifestyle, including young police personnel. The police officers will be isolated from their peers if they don't consume drugs," he added.

He said the National Police have meted out punishment to the officers, depending on the level of their involvement in offenses.

"The minimum punishment was to suspend the officers. Some have even been prosecuted at military courts," he said.

Rusdihardjo said the number of police involved in drug cases had reached an alarming level.

"The national campaign against drugs will never be a success if the law enforcers, including police officers, are involved in taking drugs and trafficking," he said.

Besides punishing police personnel involved in drugs, the National Police are also strengthening supervision during drug raids and investigations, he said.

"The National Police will set rules to tighten supervision during drug raids, so the evidence will not be kept or sold by police conducting the raids," he said.

The police chief said drug dealers were the ones who took advantage of police officers' involvement in drugs.

"Dealers provide drugs to the young police personnel. In return, they expect protection from the officers," he said.

Rusdihardjo said the police could not wipe out the rampant drug trafficking and consumption in the country without help from the public.

"Since the number of police is limited, the public should inform the police as soon as they find illegal drugs being consumed or trafficked in their respective neighborhoods," he said.

In Indonesia, one officer oversees 1,300 people. It is far from the ideal ratio, in which one officer oversees 300 people.

Rusdihardjo said the drug problem has worsened as only a small number of people were willing to testify in court in drug cases.

"People are still reluctant to testify in court on drug cases, as they are afraid of threats by drug syndicates.

"We will propose soon a draft bill to the House of Representatives for a witness protection plan ," he said, while citing that other countries, such as the United States, have such rulings.

Rusdihardjo also criticized judges for the low sentences they impose on drug users or traffickers in the country.

"The judges set too many considerations in the verdict. In other countries, like Malaysia, once a person smuggles more than 15 grams of heroin into the country, the judges will sentence him or her to death," he said.

He cited as an example that more than 400 people, including foreigners, had been executed in Malaysia.

He said illegal drug distribution here had reached a dangerous level for the country's sustainable development programs.

"The fate of the country is uncertain. Today, university students and scholars, the future leaders of the country, have also trafficked in and consumed drugs," he said. (asa)