Tito Karnavian : Reforms will cause major upheavals

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21 June 2016 16:32 WIB

Commissioner General Tito Karnavian. Image: BNPT

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Comr. Gen. Tito Karnavian was recently nominated as the sole candidate for the position of National Police chief. Last week, President Joko Widodo submitted Tito's name to the House of Representatives (DPR) as a replacement to the incumbent police chief, Gen. Badrodin Haiti, who will retire next month.

Tito admits he could not refuse the President's order, although there are quite a few other more senior officers who qualify for the post. In fact, Tito, a 1987 graduate of the Military Academy, will leapfrog four other higher-ranking generals. "This is the President's choice and that's an order," Tito said during his visit to the Tempo office last Friday.

The President's choice of Tito is the upshot of a long, drawn-out process. According to Badrodin, President Jokowi was quite taken by how Tito handled a number of sensitive cases, like the Kalijodo, Kampung Pulo and Sarinah bombing incidents.

Indeed, the career path of Tito, a recipient of the Adhi Makayasa star as the top graduate of his class at the Military Academy, seemed bright from the start. His name first emerged when he arrested Hutomo Mandala Putra, a son of former President Suharto, for complicity in the murder of Supreme Court Justice Syafiuddin Kartasasmita.

By all accounts, Tito was at his best when he handled counterterrorism issues. In 2005, he and the National Police crime investigation unit captured terrorist leader Dr. Azahari following a shootout at Batu, East Java. Four years later, Tito, a graduate of Exeter University in the United Kingdom, shot dead terrorist network leader Noordin Mohammad Top. 

During his one-and-a-half-hour conversation at Tempo, Tito was accompanied by former West Kalimantan Police chief Brig. Gen. Arif Sulistyano, currently an expert staff to the police chief. Tito spoke openly about issues ranging from his relationship with Deputy Police Chief Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan as well as with a number of business tycoons, and the need to reform the police force. Excerpts of the Q&A: 


How are relations between you and Deputy Police Chief Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan? 

We are on good terms. I communicate well with all my seniors. I have no problem with them and my relationship with Pak Badrodin is very good, as is communication with Pak Budi Gunawan (BG) and Pak Budi Waseso. I believe a position of neutrality is the best to have.

When did you meet with Budi Gunawan? 

I met with BG when the roster of candidates for the police chief job was being drafted, although I rarely got involved in such issues. But in discussions with Pak BG, I told him my seniors (should go ahead of me). But when the decision was made, I pointed out that it was the President's decision and his prerogative.

How many seniors will you be passing over? 

Four ranks, from 1982 to 1986.

Have you met the President recently?

I met him after the announcement was made.

What did he say?

The most important thing he conveyed to me was the need for internal reforms, so that public confidence in the police can be restored. He also stressed on professional law enforcement and internal consolidation.

Did he ask you to manage conflicts inside the police force? 

He just asked that there be internal reforms and to restore public trust and to be closer to the people. According to surveys I've read, generally (our problems) involve corruption issues, the recruitment system, career guidance, acquisitions and a more stable system of kamtibmas (security and public order).

Is it true that before your nomination, you consulted first with Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law and Security Luhut Pandjaitan? 

I did see him, as my senior. I also told Pak Badrodin.

When was that?

About three weeks before that. This was the President's choice and I saw it as an order. The loyalty of the police force and the TNI (Indonesian Military) must be to the President.

What about to your seniors?

This is not my first time in managing the organization with my seniors in it. When I was Papua police chief, I replaced a graduate of the Class of 1976. There were many of my seniors over there. It was the same when I took over the Jakarta Police. My deputy graduated in 1983.

To become police chief, a political network helps, as in the case of BG. Do you have one?

In my view, the important thing is objectivity and competence. Secondly, the police force must focus on reforms, law enforcement and be close to the people. As long as I act competently and don't rely on personal relationships, I will be acceptable. That's what I did when I headed Jakarta Metro, and in Papua. If I am competent and my colleagues see that, anything is possible. On the other hand, if I rely on close relations and not on competence, there will be resistance.

How long will the changes take place? 

I figure, in order to avoid major disruptions, changes should be carried out gradually, while assigning reformists to fill in certain positions. Most importantly will be the criteria for evaluating competence and the extent of people's desire for reforms. We face other problems as well, like the welfare of our members. Policemen earn only 57 percent (of their full wages). It used to be 33 percent in 2004. And they only get 14 percent of housing rights. Remuneration for the police must be 100 percent.

Would that make a difference?

Right now, the lowest (monthly) take-home pay is Rp10 million, with a senior commander making Rp30-35 million. This is why there's such a competition to get the best positions. But if the take-home pay meets the family's needs, I'm sure the situation will improve. It would certainly not motivate them to seek out questionable sources of income. (*)

Read the full interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine



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