TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The emergence of a violent incident in Kendal, Central Java, has once again brought Indonesia's weak law enforcement under the spotlight. The incident broke out when members of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) felt that they had the authority to conduct a sweep in the region, an action that galvanized the locals' fury. FPI's vigilante act was met with a similar response. The country seemed to only become a spectator.
It is hard to justify the act of the FPI members, which mostly come from Temanggung and Semarang. Assuming the role of law enforcers, they sweeped prostitution and gambling places in Sukorejo, Kendal. Rejecting their arbitrary action, the locals then surrounded the FPI group. Half of the angry locals burned their car.
The clash claimed a life. A woman who was riding a motorcycle with her husband was struck by the FPI's group car. Her husband, who was tossed from his bike, survived. But the wife was dragged and crushed by the car to death. The occurrence aggravated the conflict between the Kendal locals and the FPI group.
FPI's sweep was without doubt unlawful. They are not in the position to curb prostitution. That would fall under the authority of the local government or the police. It is possible for FPI to reason that they had to step in because the police did not conduct their duty, but this justification will only destroy the social—and even the state—order.
Should this justification be allowed to fly, a similar reasoning could be asserted by any group to defend a similar action. A group that attacks the group back could also state that they had to stop the group because there has been no effort from the law enforcement officials to discipline FPI. The denial towards the state's function as an order keeper will only give birth to an endless circle of violence.
This is why it is imperative to punish whoever incited riots under the law. The government should strictly act against the FPI activists because the group has frequently ran a similar action and incited chaos among society.
FPI officials have previously been blocked by the Dayak people at Tjilik Riwut airport, Palangkaraya. In Jombang, East Java, the group's arrival was also rejected by a number of mass organizations.
It is true that everybody owns the freedom to associate in organizations. But it is hard to defend the existence of an organization whose members often conduct violent acts. This problem has actually been regulated in the Mass Organization Law. Organizations whose members frequently act violently could face consequences ranging from warnings from the government to temporary suspension if the group continues to disrupt public order.
The law enforcement officials could also investigate the Kendal incident using the Criminal Code (KUHP). It is not enough to deem the sweep perpetrators as suspects. The police should extend their punishment to the mastermind of the sweep.
We should not allow the social and the state order to be ruined because of a violent act that has been tolerated for too long.