Hoping for the Impossible

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  • TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The selection of Idham Azis as the sole candidate for the chief of Indonesian National Police (Polri) diminishes the hopes for reforms in the law enforcement institutions. Lacking significant achievements during his leadership of the Polri Criminal Detectives Agency, Idham only has 15 months left before he retires. With this limited time in the post, he will not be able to work effectively, let alone make any significant changes.

    Unfortunately, his predecessor has left him much to do. The case of the acid attack on Corruption Eradication Commission investigator Novel Baswedan is just one example. The public had hoped the police would be able to unravel this case, but as of the three-month deadline set by President Jokowi, which expired on October 19, the police have been unable to find the people behind the attack. Idham was the head of the technical team investigating the Novel case.

    Another unfinished task is improving the behavior of police officers, who have become increasingly militaristic and a threat to civil freedoms. This inappropriate conduct was seen after the demonstrations on May 22, when officers arrested people accused of sedition. The police also failed to follow the procedure of mediation and negotiation when breaking up the crowds during the demonstrations of students in a number of areas in September. Five people died and dozens were injured in the incident. The repressive acts by the police clearly obstructed freedom of opinion and expression, two of the main pillars of democracy.

    Meanwhile, action against corrupt police officers is no less important. It is already public knowledge that the police have long been corrupt at every level. Looking for a clean policeman is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. People now joke that there are no honest police officers apart from former police chief Hoegeng and statues of police officers.

    Internal conflicts within the police and the hostile relationship between Polri and the Indonesian military (TNI) is another issue that needs to be resolved. There have long been whispers of factionalism within the police that have left it unable to function properly. Good relations between the police and the TNI are only visible on the surface – as seen by the frequent joint public appearances of Polri chief Tito Karnavian and TNI Commander Hadi Tjahjanto. But at the levels below the leadership, there is still smoldering hatred between the two institutions.

    Reforms within the police began after Polri was split off from the TNI in line with People's Consultative Assembly Decree No. 6/2000, and the police distanced themselves from other militaristic aspects, leaving the public hoping that the police would enforce the law based on human rights considerations. But after 19 years of reforms, Polri has not changed much, and even gives the impression of being out of control. It still clings to a militaristic nature and a closed bureaucracy.

    Legally, Polri is directly under the president as laid down in Law No. 2/2002. This states that only the president can determine if the police perform well or not by appointing a new Polri chief. Unfortunately, the president often fails to obtain complete information about prospective Polri chiefs, and he does not seem to have considered the position of Idham as part of the Polri factionalism.

    The president can in fact put forward more than one candidate to the House of Representatives (DPR). However, possibly to avoid creating a fuss, the president only proposed one candidate. Since the appointments as Polri chiefs of Badrodin Haiti in 2015 and Tito Karnavian in 2016, there has been no contest with candidates putting forward their respective visions and missions.

    The law that states that the police chief is chosen by the president together with the DPR now seems redundant. Of course, more than one candidate does not guarantee that the best person will be chosen. However, with an open contest at the DPR, candidates would be forced to offer their ideas and thoughts.

    Read the Complete Story in this Week's Edition of Tempo English Magazine