Mon, 11 Sep 2000

Proposal to arm public order officials rejected

JAKARTA (JP): Governor Sutiyoso rejected on Friday a proposal that city public order officials be equipped with tear gas canisters while conducting raids in public places.

He said he was aware of resistance from residents whenever officials conducted operations to restore order to the city, but insisted that arming them with tear gas canisters would create more conflicts rather then solving the problem.

"It is a fact that when we raid areas of prostitutes, street vendors and beggars, they physically resist, which sometimes endangers the lives of the officials.

"Still, there is not enough grounds to arm the officials," Sutiyoso said.

"The personnel will only have sufficient equipment to defend themselves, such as batons and handcuffs, but not more than that. I do not even think they need tear gas canisters to carry out their work," he added.

The proposal to equip the city public order officials with tear gas was recently informally proposed by some public order officials of the Senen district administration in Central Jakarta. They complained that their lives were always in danger and they were unable to do anything when residents fought back and resisted the operations.

Sutiyoso said city public order officials should, therefore, coordinate with the city police and always tell them whenever they wanted to conduct the operations, pointing out that security was the responsibility of the police.

Reducing public offenses was one of the three aspects Sutiyoso promised before city councillors in his accountability speech in August.

However, most of the time the officials met with strong resistance from residents in the areas where the officials conducted raids.

A councillor from Commission E on welfare issues, Audi I.Z. Tambunan, supported Sutiyoso's decision, saying the proposal would only instigate clashes with the officials, who were not as strongly disciplined as those in the military.

"Security is the responsibility of the police, so what is important is to coordinate with the city police before conducting the raids," Audi told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.

He suggested that the city public order officials develop a different approach to dealing with people.

"They should have more dialog, rather than equipping themselves with arms. I believe people can accept the city regulation if they are well informed about it," he said.

Noted sociologist Imam Prasodjo also underlined the importance of holding dialog with the people, rather than conducting raids.

"What is important is that whenever there are problems, there should be a dialog," he told the Post.

"We should create some kind of security zone, controlled by local people, so whenever there is sign of public disorder the locals can support the city public order personnel," Imam suggested. (dja)