Fri, 23 Jun 2000

Presidential control of police backed by legal experts

JAKARTA (JP): In search of an independent and professional police force, legal experts and a sociologist supported on Friday a proposal to put the National Police under the direct supervision of the president.

Legal experts J.E. Sahetapy, Sri Soemantri, Poedjo Moeljono and Oka Mahendra, and noted sociologist Sardjono Jatiman said during a seminar on police professionalism that an independent police force was being demanded by the country.

"An independent police force, which is free from any political intervention, is important for independent law enforcement in the country," Sahetapy said during the seminar.

"We can't place the police under any ministry because it will degrade the police's position," he added, referring to a proposal to put the police under the supervision of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The National Police is currently under the supervision of the Ministry of Defense after officially separating from the Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI) last year. ABRI has since been renamed the Indonesian Military (TNI).

Poedjo, a constitutional law lecturer at Trisakti University, said the separation of the police from any ministry was in line with the spirit of the preamble to the 1945 Constitution.

"The preamble clearly states that the duty of the state is to protect the whole nation and the land of Indonesia, in a sense national security.

"We cannot separate defense and security functions, but we have to differentiate between the duties, authorities and responsibilities of the police and the armed forces," he said.

He further stated that the police had three main functions: law enforcement, supervision of security and order and public service.

Soemantri, a law professor at Padjadjaran University in Bandung, cited historical facts as the grounds to place the police directly under the president.

"It's true that our Constitution does not say anything about the National Police. But they (police) also fought for the country from the very beginning.

"An integration with the military in 1967 placed the police in difficult situations which it couldn't avoid," he said.

Oka, an expert staff member of the minister of law and legislation, discussed the legal aspects of moving the police under the supervision of the president.

"We must be sure that the president won't interfere too much with the police's operational and daily activities. We must limit the president's authority over the police to being their chief in name only.

"It's also important to set up an independent agency to watch the police's performance for the sake of the public," he said.

Sardjono cited research by graduate students that showed some 70 percent of questioned experts supported the proposal to place the police under the president's supervision.

Earlier in the morning, National Police chief Gen. Rusdihardjo said the police were in the process of improving their image.

"We have instilled in our personnel greater professionalism and integrity as part of our internal reforms," Rusdihardjo said in a written speech read by Maj. Gen. Hamami Nata.

"We also plan to restructure the National Police to improve our services," he added.

These claims of improvement, however, were challenged by other speakers at the seminar.

"The police's position in the people's heart is more important. The police have to improve their performance," deputy chairman of House of Representatives Commission II on home and legal affairs Ferry Mursyidan Baldan said.

"House Commission II has agreed to increase the police's budget and personnel," he added.

Similarly, lawyer Nursyahbani Katjasungkana said it was important to change people's negative perception of the police. "The police have to change their paradigm and improve their professionalism to be able to eradicate the negative perceptions." (nvn)