Fri, 30 Jun 2000

Police to replace Paspampres, says Gen. Rusdihardjo

JAKARTA (JP): National Police Chief Gen. Rusdihardjo disclosed on Thursday that the Presidential Security Detail (Paspampres) would be dissolved soon and the duty would be handed over to police personnel.

"Soon, the police personnel will replace the task of the (Paspampres) unit, which is currently carried out by members of the Indonesian Military (TNI)," Rusdihardjo said during a gathering with retired high-ranking police officers at the police-owned Wisma Bhayangkari meeting hall in South Jakarta.

He, however, did not explain exactly when the plan would be carried out. So far, there have been no official statements from either the central government or TNI top brass officials, including those from Paspampres, about the reasons for the disbandment of the unit, whose members require a high level of training.

National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Dadang Garnida said the plan to terminate the existence of Paspampres and to replace them with police personnel has been approved by Minister of Defense Juwono Sudarsono.

"We discussed the matter with the Minister of Defense on June 1 and he agreed with the step," Dadang said.

"Now, we are preparing for the establishment of the new unit," he added.

Thursday's police gathering was held in accordance with the police's 54th anniversary on July 1.

With headquarters located on Jl. Tanah Abang II in Central Jakarta, the Paspampres command, which has some 1,600 members, consists of troops from various units such as the Military Police, the Army's Special Force (Kopassus) and the Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad). It is divided into three groups, namely Group A, assigned to protect the President; Group B for the Vice President; and C for state guests.

According to Rusdihardjo, the shifting of the responsibility of providing first-class security for the country's President and Vice President could be seen as another positive achievement by the National Police, following the separation of the force from TNI in April last year.

Dadang said that changing the duty from a TNI operation to a police operation could not be avoided, since militaristic attributes no longer suit with the current era of reform.

"We are facing a civil society today, and police, as a civilian force, have the duty to secure the President and Vice President," the spokesman said, adding that the plan might come into effect sometime this year.

Dadang explained that the National Police headquarters has yet to decide which of the police's units would be assigned to carry out the important task.

"They might be taken from the police Mobile Brigade or the Jakarta Police's VIP Security Guard," he said.

The details, he said, are still being discussed by the team.

Paspampres is now under the command of Brig. Gen. I Putu Sastra, a senior official within the TNI.

Dadang said that if the change takes place smoothly, it would be reminiscent of the scenario during the years when Sukarno, the first president of Indonesia, ruled the country.

"The TNI originally took over the police's duties to maintain the safety of the president and the vice president during the critical years between 1965 and 1966," he said.

Bloody incidents occurred throughout the country in late 1966 following the abortive coup allegedly attempted by the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) in September of that year.

On March 23, 1966, the presidential guards, called the Cakrabirawa regiment, received a new name: Satgas Pomad, or Army Military Police Task Force. In 1972, the name was changed to Paswalpres, or Presidential Guard, before it was renamed again with its current name: Paspampres. (asa)