TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Whatever the motive, the police should not have supported candidates in the recent regional elections. Police chiefs should not have sacrificed the integrity and credibility of law enforcement for the sake of their own short-term political interests. Those who were involved in such actions must be prosecuted and removed from their positions.
Indications that several individuals in the police force supported certain candidates were already clear in the early stages of the regional elections. East Kalimantan Police Chief Inspector General Safaruddin, for instance, ordered his men to examine Democratic Partys gubernatorial candidate Syaharie Jaang after his proposal to run as a candidate forJaang'sdeputy governor was rejected. Safaruddin later turned to the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) to run as a candidate for deputy governor.
In Medan, North Sumatra Police Chief Inspector General Paulus Waterpauw was caught making a hand sign similar to the political symbol of a regional head candidate when posing for a photograph. Furthermore, Maluku Police Deputy Chief Inspector General Hasanuddin fell under the spotlight for actively gathering support for a candidate. Although they did not directly attack and obstruct other candidates, they violated the code of ethics.
Former Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry Sudirman Said, who ran for Central Java governor, experienced the most dramatic story. Five days prior to election day, his campaign team, who were on their way to Semarang to hand over Rp4.5 billion to pay for meals for witnesses at voting booths, were intercepted on a toll road. The police officers who stopped them said they were investigating a drug case. As a consequence, Sudirman`s team could not distribute logistics to the thousands of election witnesses in Central Java.
Any form of political intervention to disrupt a campaign team or making false allegations to tarnish a rival's reputation is a dirty political move that has no place in this country. Law enforcers involvements in such actions have damaged the polices reputation, akin to cutting off one's nose to spite one's own face.
National Police Chief Gen. Tito Karnavian must be given appreciation for issuing a circular letter listing 13 items that police officers must not do during the regional elections. Enforcing his instructions in the field, however, was not without issues. Threats of discharge and prosecution were not enough to make police chiefs comply with the rules set by their commander.
It is undeniable that one of the causes of the problem is the polices internal tradition of taking sides. This may damage police neutrality in a political arena, such as a regional head election, when each side is loyal to a political patron with shared interests. They will protect their own interests by any means necessary, including misusing their position.
If such a condition is left unattended, the police will never be neutral. This must be seen as a threat to the future of democracy in Indonesia. It is still fresh in our memory how government apparatus were used to protect the political interests of those in power in the New Order era.
In today's democracy, these bitter experiences during President Suharto's rule must not be repeated. All stakeholders must strive to turn the police into a law enforcement institution that is just, clean, and independent.
Read the full article in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine