Wed, 19 Mar 2003

`We should all fight against thugs'

Following the attack on Tempo magazine, the community leaders, politicians and journalists have begun joint efforts to condemn the practice of gangster-related thuggery. In daily life, millions of low-income people on the street become the victims of gangsters. The alarming situation of almost constant gangster intimidation at all levels of society could seriously threaten the country. The Jakarta Post talked to several city residents about the issue.

Tohid, 30, unemployed and living in Depok with his relatives:

I guess the white-collar gangsters are the most dangerous threat to the nation. They must be eradicated immediately to prevent more troubles in the country.

There are many high-profile hoodlums, who stand behind the bureaucrats and high ranking officials. This is probably what happened in the Tempo case.

It certainly raises questions also, as to why the police seem so reluctant to take serious measures to deal with these hoodlums. If that kind of thuggery proliferates as it has been, I'm afraid they will virtually own the law enforcement institutions.

I do agree with the joint commitment to fight against these organized gangs following the magazine attack two weeks ago. It might be necessary to just shoot and kill all the high-profile thug kingpins since they are the most dangerous ones.

All journalists, in this case, should also unite in one solid movement to fight against them. They should be reliable too. I mean to say that the journalists need to remain professional and maintain the moral high ground, because many hoodlums pretend to be journalists now.

All will depend on the serious commitment of the law enforcers to eradicate these thugs. If they got serious, many high ranking officials would very likely get some sort of legal punishment too as they probably back the thugs.

However, it is also important to categorize the permanent and the temporary hoodlums. The permanent ones deserve harsh punishment, while the temporary thugs -- who work for a few months just for survival reasons -- should be put in a social rehabilitation program or trained in a vocation.

Jose, 31, is a translator. He resides in Jakarta with his family:

I wonder whether or not the struggle against thuggery will be successful. I think the law enforcers now behave like gangsters themselves and even support the gangs' activities. So, how could they take serious measures if they are in cahoots with the hoodlums.

Anyway, I agree with the idea to fight against the alarming rise of these gangsters as they have threatened the security of all people here.

In the short term, perhaps it's better to take repressive measures against the street thugs. I think they should be shot on sight, all of them.

It is important to recall the extra-judicial killings by the Soeharto-organized secret police, Petrus, back in the 1980s. At that time people felt secure because the criminals were afraid of committing crimes.

Such harsh law enforcement measures are the only thing that these uneducated apes understand. Besides, the law enforcers should have a strong commitment to combat the crimes. Extra- judicial killing could be one way to deal with them.

Or, for the long term the government should eradicate street hoodlums by empowering them with education. They could be employed as productive workers in some industries like the inmates at Nusakambangan penitentiary.

However, the most urgent thing to do now is to fight against hoodlums, especially those who are supported by our corrupt bureaucrats and high-ranking officials. It is very clear that there are many high-profile hoodlums who are protected by the corrupt high ranking officials.

Otherwise, the whole nation will continue to deteriorate.

Ceye, nickname, 40, a motorcycle taxi (ojek) driver who formerly was a hoodlum in Slipi, West Jakarta. He now resides in Central Jakarta with his wife and two daughters:

I agree with the fight against thuggery in the city. In fact, the alarming rise of street hoodlums has threatened the city residents.

Even I agree that they should be shot dead in a bid to stop their proliferation. Perhaps shooting them on sight will be a good idea. Otherwise, such gangsters will remain a serious hazard to the community.

For example, the thugs, who usually extort the residents for money, and then go spend the money on harmful activities such as drugs and alcohol.

Usually they behave belligerently in public. And passersby will of course be too afraid to go near them due to the unexpected risks.

I admit that I used to be a street hoodlum too. I usually hung around with my fellow gangsters in public places just to prey on people. My friends mugged the victims and shared the earnings for alcohol.

Many times police nabbed me for after street crimes or brawls. Frankly, I was a cold-blooded trouble maker at that time. My father usually paid the police to release me from many legal cases.

But years went by and I soon realized that I was unhappy with my life. Every time I pass through certain neighborhoods, they looked frightened and did not want me there. I finally decided to repent as otherwise my reputation will remain bad.

It was when I decided to get married then I quit the gang. I was not proud at all of being called a hoodlum.

The hoodlums are just useless blood-sucking parasites on society and therefore I agree that we should all fight against thugs in the city since their only real "jobs" are extorting normal hard-working people.

-- Leo Wahyudi S