Fri, 03 Mar 2000

President guns for more police personnel

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid said on Thursday he would not rest in his efforts to strengthen the National Police to 600,000 officers, three times the current number of personnel.

"There are 200,000 police officers nationwide today, which is not even 1 percent of the nation's population. Ideally, it should be 3 percent of the population, which is the general standard of any country worldwide," Abdurrahman said in his visit to the Mobile Brigade (Brimob) Headquarters in Kelapa Dua, south of Jakarta.

"This will only be possible when our economic condition strengthens. That's the only way we can make the living conditions of Brimob officers better.

"I came here to see how my children were doing. I am glad that the officers could receive me in just a couple of days. I thought it would take at least one week. At least I know that Brimob officers are always on alert."

The President, who is popularly known as Gus Dur, was accompanied by Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri, her husband Taufiq Kiemas, National Police chief Lt. Gen. Rusdihardjo and National Police deputy chief Maj. Gen. Bimantoro.

A National Police source believed the visit was a concerted attempt by the President to gain the police's support.

"Gus Dur is a civilian ... that's what his recent visit to the Kopassus (Army's Special Force) was all about. He needs these people to back him up."

The President's speech was followed by a 15-minute question and answer session.

An officer, originally from East Timor and part of the force for three years, told Abdurrahman of the difficulty of contacting his family after the province seceded from Indonesia.

"I love Indonesia, but I need to know where my parents are. I haven't heard from them for so long, and I think it has become difficult for Indonesians to travel to East Timor. What am I to do?"

The President answered that he would be able to visit East Timor once relations were fully established.

"In my recent visit several days ago to Dili, the East Timorese expressed fondness, and a kind of longing. This relationship will heal in a short time. You will be able to find your parents soon."

In response to the comment of a woman officer of the need for "liaison officers" in countries with high populations of Indonesian migrant workers, the President said he would discuss the matter with Minister of Religious Affairs Tolchah Hasan. Most of the country's migrant workers are sent to the Middle East.

On the lack of hostels and dormitories close to the Brimob headquarters, the President said an officer serving his or her country should not be forced to lease a home at his own expense.

"I will try to arrange some government-funded housing for Brimob officers living far from headquarters. It won't be much, but it's the thought that counts."

At the ceremony, Rusdihardjo tried to evade reporters' questions about a request made in a recent top-priority report by the inspector general of the Ministry of Defense, Lt. Gen. Suharto.

In the report addressed to Minister of Defense Juwono Sudarsono, Suharto requested intensive questioning of three police generals concerning mismanagement of the National Police's 1999 to 2000 Crash Funding Program.

"I just received the news about the report recently. I can't say much on the matter," Rusdihardjo said before walking to his car.

"Look, the investigation will be done until we find who the offenders are. That's all."

Suharto requested a more intensive investigation of the former chief of the National Police, Gen. Roesmanhadi, the former National Police chief's assistant for planning, Maj. Gen. Adang Daradjatun, and chief of the treasury agency Brig. Gen. Darmadji S.W.

"We must check to determine how deep their involvement was in the stated corruption cases," Suharto said in the report. Released on Feb. 28 this year, the report defined the investigation period as from Feb. 3 to Feb. 18. (ylt)