Sat, 18 Mar 2000

Two lawyers condemn gun-toting peers

JAKARTA (JP): Two senior lawyers have condemned the growing trend of lawyers carrying firearms, saying this would only lead to more violence.

Interviewed separately, Bambang Widjoyanto from the Foundation of the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) and Apong Herlina, chairwoman of the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute, said carrying firearms, a trend which has caught on among some Jakarta-based lawyers, could spark violence in society.

Bambang said lawyers who trusted their safety to their guns might believe they could no longer trust the law.

"They are fighting violence with violence. The widespread possession of guns within a society will lead to a lawless society," Bambang said on Thursday.

In agreement was Apong, who said that if lawyers carried firearms it would cause fear and insecurity among the people, including those involved in court trials.

"It will make lawyers more likely to commit violence since they already have the means, namely the guns," she said on Wednesday.

The two lawyers were commenting on an unusual scene at the Central Jakarta District Court last Thursday. According to several journalists who witnessed the incident, they saw a small gun beneath the coat of noted lawyer Hotman Paris Hutapea, who was at the court for a civil case.

When asked by the journalists about the gun, Hotman refused to answer and said the question "is out of context".

Besides Hotman, lawyer Henry Yosodiningrat is also known to carry a firearm.

Contacted on Friday, Henry said a man in a high-risk profession like himself must be allowed to carry a gun for self- defense.

"Lawyers, for example, often are threatened with guns," he said.

According to him, he has received numerous threats over the telephone from unknown parties.

"The number of threats has increased since I became the chairman of the antidrug group Granat in October last year," Henry said, adding that he has carried a gun for almost two years.

He agreed with fears that the unchecked sale of guns would result in Indonesia becoming a country where violence occurred every day.

Therefore, he suggested only selected lawyers be allowed to possess firearms, and only after passing a number of tests, including one to check their emotional state of mind.

Bambang and Apong insisted that all lawyers who possessed guns should be willing to hand over their weapons to the police, the party with the authority to ensure security in Jakarta.

Apong worried the possession of guns within society would encourage people to take the law into their own hands.

"The possession of guns will then only add to the security problems," she said.

Bambang said: "As members of the legal apparatus, they (the lawyers) should trust security personnel to handle any threats (they have received) in line with existing laws."

"If we disobey the rules, the country will become a lawless state," he added.

Apong urged the police, which issues gun permits to civilians, to tighten their screening process of those who wish to own firearms. (asa)