Fri, 22 Aug 2003

Special task forces set up to fight drug trafficking

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The National Police and the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) set up a special task force on Thursday to fight the prison drug trade.

The task force -- comprising police officers, BNN officials and prisons guards -- will eventually work in 2,400 prisons across the country, following a pilot project at the Cipinang, Salemba and Tangerang penitentiaries.

These three prisons are thought to be among the worst in terms of drug trafficking. Several inmates at the prisons have controlled their drug businesses from behind bars, allegedly with the assistance of guards.

Tangerang Police arrested 11 inmates in July and charged them with operating drug rings via mobile phones.

Tangerang Penitentiary warden Jejen Zaenal HD acknowledged that some guards could be working with prisoners in the drug trade, adding that two guards had been dismissed for their alleged involvement in the drug business.

National Police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar also acknowledged that drugs were being bought and sold in the country's prisons.

"That is why we are deploying an (interdepartmental) task force to put an end to the practice," he said.

The task force, he said, would report to the police "should they find something not right in the prisons".

Two other task forces were also set up on Thursday, one to prevent drugs from being smuggled into the country through ports and the other to monitor the trade of chemicals that could be used to manufacture illegal drugs.

Da'i said ports must be closely monitored to prevent illegal drugs from being smuggled into Indonesia, whose geography makes it a haven for smugglers.

"The task force will serve major seaports and traditional ones," Da'i said.

The authorities also must be vigilant in monitoring the trade in chemicals that can be used to manufacture drugs, Da'i said.

"We must prevent the illegal distribution of chemicals because we do not want criminals to produce or create new kinds of drugs," he said.

Da'i said drugs remained a major problem in Indonesia. The officer said the number of drug dealing cases was increasing by about 1.3 percent a year, with some 34,000 cases in 2001 and 37,000 cases in 2002.