The Wrong Way

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Laila Afifa

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  • TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - President Joko Widodo must establish an independent fact-finding team to investigate the killings of six members of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) in the early hours of Monday, December 7.

    HANDING over the investigation to the National Police Criminal Investigation Division is pointless. It is difficult to hope that the police can be objective when investigating themselves.

    There are good reasons to suspect violations of the law in the shooting of the FPI members. There are significant omissions in the statements and evidence put forward by the Greater Jakarta Police Chief Insp. Gen. Fadil Imran.

    Firstly, there is insufficient evidence to support Fadil's claim that the shootings of the bodyguards of FPI founder Rizieq Shihab were in self-defense. Nobody knows whether it is a coincidence or not, but the CCTV camera at the location of the shooting, at kilometer 50 on the Jakarta-Cikampek toll road, was not working. As a result, the claim that the FPI members fired first from two 9-millimeter revolvers is difficult to verify. On top of this, the origin of these pistols is dubious.

    Secondly, the photos of the shooting victims show that the bullets entered their bodies at the most fatal point. The bodies of the six FPI members had bullet holes on the left side of the chest, near the heart. In an exchange of fire between vehicles moving at high speed, it is difficult to shoot this accurately and uniformly.

    The government has an obligation to thoroughly investigate the allegations of extrajudicial killings. Police officers are law enforcement operatives, not cowboys who can act outside the law. If this is what happened, this taking the law into their own hands cannot be allowed to continue. This time the victims were FPI members, but who can guarantee that the police will not act in a similar way against other citizens in the future?

    The support expressed by some for the shooting of the FPI members is misplaced. Citing the intolerant acts of the FPI as justification for the killings is also mistaken. Any wrongdoing carried out by the FPI must be responded to by clear enforcement of the law, not acts of revenge that are themselves against the law.

    Therefore, if Rizieq Shihab is accused of breaking Law No. 6/2008 on health quarantine, the police must name him a suspect and produce him in court. The police surveillance and tailing of Rizieq seem to be an overreaction.

    As well as investigating the shooting, the independent fact-finding team also needs to look into allegations of the involvement of the National Intelligence Agency (BIN). The FPI claim that BIN officers have been monitoring their moves and took part in the attack on Rizieq Shihab's followers. It is important to investigate this accusation so that any abuses of authority by the intelligence agency can be punished appropriately.

    Leaving aside the results of the investigation, the fatal shootings of the FPI members are regrettable. The inappropriate way that the law enforcement officers took excessive action might have been triggered by poor political communication from the Palace. After seemingly allowing tens of thousands of people to welcome Rizieq Shihab home at Soekarno-Hatta Airport at the beginning of November, the police were reportedly reprimanded by President Joko Widodo. On top of this was the public gathering in violation of health protocols at the commemoration of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad at the FPI headquarters in Petamburan, Central Jakarta. Not long after this, two regional police chiefs were dismissed.

    After this series of incidents, the public is divided. Some support tough measures against the FPI, while others believe that the government should not overreact. In a situation like this, President Joko Widodo should give clear and explicit political instructions that enforcement of the law must come above all. Any room for misinterpretation in tense situations must be eliminated. If not, officers on the ground could make their own interpretations of the political aims of the elite.

    Like it or not, the FPI is now part of this nation's political reality. There are millions of Muslims who feel that their aspirations are represented by this type of radical group. Muzzling them using extrajudicial methods as happened during the New Order regime has proved unable to solve this problem. The government must not make the same mistake.

    Read the Complete Story in Tempo English Magazine