Police & Politics: A threat to democracy

(illustration: IO/Rudraksha)

IO, Jakarta – Minister Tjahjo Kumolo has proposed two Police Inspector Generals to fill in open guberna­torial seats: the Assistant of the Chief of Police in Op­erations (Asops) Inspector General Mochamad Iriawan as Acting Governor of West Java, and Head of the Pro­fessional and Security Division (Kadiv Propam) of In­donesian Police, Inspector General Martuani Sormin, as Acting Governor of North Sumatra. Tjahjo reasoned that the appointment of Indonesian police officials as Acting Governors would be justified by security rea­sons. They would be stationed in conflict-prone areas during the execution of Regional Elections (Pilkada)

Neutrality of Indonesian Police Under Suspicion
These appointments raise some polemic issues, and critics such as Siti Zuhro, a Senior Researcher from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences. She said that even though Indonesia does not have a Bill of Government Ethics in place, does not mean that the daily running of the Government is a free-for-all. The Law concerning the Civil Institutions of the State (Aparatur Sipil Negara – “ASN”) and Law concerning Pilkada provide clear provisions concerning any void in a regional official position.

Article 201 Paragraphs 9 and 10 of Law No. 10 year 2016 concerning pilkada (regional elections) states that open gubernatorial, regency, and may­orship positions shall be refilled from the ranks of medium-high ranking functionaries (jabatan tinggi madya), defined as ASN positions as regulated in Article 13 Law No. 5 year 2014 concerning ASN, wherein jabatan tinggi madya specifically exclude positions in the environs of the Indonesian Armed Forces and the Indonesian Police. Article 108 of the ASN Law further states that higher levels of civil officialdom shall be filled in by Civil Servants (PNS). Article 109 of ASN Law states that higher levels of civil officialdom may be filled by officials of the Indo­nesian Armed Forces or Indonesian Police once they resign from active duty.

The provisions of Article 109 reiterate that offices in the Indonesian Armed Forces/Indonesian Police do not include high officialdom, because in order to hold such a high seat, they must first resign from the Indonesian Armed Forces/Indonesian Police. Therefore, it can be concluded that positions in the Indonesian Armed Forces/Indonesian Police are not classified as jabatan tinggi madya, so these officers cannot be elected to fill any void in a Regional Head (Kepala Daerah – “KDH”) position. Based on the provisions of these laws, serious, careful, and accurate consideration of the appointment of Indonesian Police officials as Acting Governors is necessary.

Appraising this development, Vice Chairman of Commis­sion II of the House of Representatives (De­wan Perwakilan Rakyat – “DPR”) of RI, A. Riza Patria, said that the appointment of acting governors from the police element would tamper with the neutrality of the police. This is underscored by the fact that in the Era of Reform, there is an agreement to maintain separation of army and the police from the political arena, to maintain their neutrality. ‘The Reform Era has rules of the game in place, in the Indonesian Po­lice Law No. 2/2002, Article 28 Paragraph 1, which states that the Indonesian Police shall remain neu­tral. Also, Paragraph 3 states that members of the Indonesian Police may hold positions outside of the police only after having resigned or retired from the Force,’ he said.

A similar view was stated by Neta S. Pane, Chair­woman of the Presidium of the Indonesian Police Watch (IPW). She finds the Minister of the Interior’s plan to appoint two officers of the Indonesian Police as Acting Governor to be a very dangerous idea that would cripple democracy, because it might set a prec­edent for the Double-Functioning (Dwifungsi) of the Indonesian Police. This while one of the principles that the Reform Movement fought for when bringing down the New Order is the termination of the Dwifungsi of the Armed Forces. (The idea applied by the New Or­der Government was that the Indonesian Armed Forc­es has the double-pronged duty of maintaining the security and order of the nation and of regulating it.)

‘The authorities must be able to maintain the in­dependence and professionalism of the Indonesian Police, and must not draw the Indonesian Police into political matters, especially creating the Dwifungsi of the Indonesian Police. Such action would damage the reputation of the Indonesian Police, destroy its profes­sionalism, and raise jealousy among the Indonesian Armed Forces, because the Dwifungsi of the Armed Forces is eliminated, but the Dwifungsi of the Indo­nesian Police is allowed in its place instead,’ he said.

Conflicting Interests
One of the things Siti regrets is that in the Pilkada process, bureaucracy tends to be a forum for con­flicting political interests. ‘We all know that the head officers of any institution or ministry are political positions. But what we must not do is play around with the internal rules of the game in bureaucracy, because bureaucracy is a main cogwheel in the devel­opment and running of the country. The bureaucracy and ASN are servants of the country, of the people. They must never be servants of the authorities or any political party. Therefore, bureaucracy as an institu­tion must not be intervened with by political powers, because it makes the bureaucracy into partisans that only serves the current authorities and parties in power. That is a short-term game with a short fuse. Bureaucracy should be the unifier of the nation and the people, because ASN’s duties extend from Sabang to Merauke (i.e. throughout the Archipelago). It is the bureaucracy that maintains the integrity of this na­tion. If there is nothing left of bureaucratic indepen­dence because temporary needs destroy it, that is very dangerous,’ she reiterated.

Meanwhile, Neta urges civil bureaucrats not to tempt or involve Indonesian Police into practical poli­tics or civil governance, especially in view of the large number of (former) police and military generals who participate in Pilkada 2018. The existence of In­donesian Police officials holding the Acting Governor seat would have major negative impact to Indonesian Police itself, ‘Especially in West Java area, the existence of a police offi­cial as Acting Governor might result in charges of lack of independence and professionalism of the Indone­sian Police from many parties. In a dangerous situation like now, i.e. a Pilkada, Indonesian Police would do well to maintain its professionalism and independence, and concentrate only on their duty as police, i.e. maintain order and security. In case of conflicts during the Pilkada, the Indonesian Police can better main­tain its standing among all existing groups and not get accused of sid­ing with any particular group. IPW does not want Indonesian Police to be accused of involving its generals as Acting Governor merely to secure gubernatorial victory for candidates from specific parties. Such unfortu­nate impression would be detrimen­tal to the future of the Indonesian Police,’ Neta explained.

Similar with Neta, Riza said that pulling the Indonesian Police into the maelstrom of political fracas like Pilkada in West Java and North Sumatra is regrettable – it gives the impression as if there are no other bureaucrats available outside of the Indonesian Police to serve as Act­ing Governor. ‘Especially since the main duty and function of Indone­sian Police according to the man­date of the law is to maintain order in society and uphold the law, not as bureaucrats in the government,’ he said.

The Gerindra Party politician fur­ther said that the reasoning of the Minister of the Interior for appoint­ing elements of the police in West Java and North Sumatra for nation­al security is patently unacceptable. ‘Does having a police officer as a governor mean automatic security in conflict-prone areas? Look at the conflicts in Aceh, Maluku, North Maluku, and Papua – none of the standing officials ever came from outside of the Ministry of the Interi­or,’ he said. He further notes that it would be much wiser if the Ministry of the Interior appoints officials from among the ASN.

The decision made by the Min­ister of the Interior rouses public suspicion. Is there an agenda to push for specific candidates, with ramifications that extend to the General Elections of 2019? Siti found such suspicions to be nat­ural. She believes that as we are approaching the Parliamentary Elections (Pileg) and Presidential Elections (Pilpres) in 2019, all po­litical forces are calculating for the competition in 2019.

‘PDIP as the winning party of 2014 would naturally feel discomfit­ed about losing in Banten and SCR of Jakarta – why add defeat in oth­er regions? It’s fine wanting to win, all parties do – but there are risks attached, especially since this is the ruling party. The risk is that it will participate in another election, so if now they make negative political investments, the people would cer­tainly remember that. Why would they re-elect a party that would shamelessly do anything to win? This is something that everyone must remember: being a political party is like being a merchant – you sell your merchandise. Well, is your merchandise attractive? How would you package it? Political parties need to be skillful in packaging their wares, in winning the people’s heart. When they are in power, they must not make blunders in their decisions that would ultimately damage them­selves,’ she said.

Siti further reiterates how the Minister of the Interior’s decision is in fact a blunder. ‘That’s because it’s clear, to secure the network. But they mustn’t forget that this is planning at elite level, and the peo­ple have full authority to select their own leaders. The people have their own preferences,’ she said.

Neta further added that the Min­ister of the Interior should immedi­ately recant such rogue ideas. The Minister of the Interior must un­derstand that the duty of the two police generals he would have as Acting Governor would be onerous, especially for securing simultane­ous Pilkadas across the country. How could the Asops, for instance, maintain the country’s security during the infamously vicious time of the Pilkada properly if he also has to perform duties as the Acting Gov­ernor West Java? His original duties extend beyond the borders of East Java. The same thing applies to the Kadiv Propam, slated to be the Acting Governor of North Sumatra. Both have the duty of maintaining the neutrality of the entire forces of the police in the field. How would they be honest and fair referees, if they were also forced to play?

‘IPW hopes that the Indonesian Police reject the plan and sugges­tion of the Minister of the Interior, so that the Indonesian Police can maintain its concentration on the nation’s security in Pilkada 2018, as well as maintaining its profes­sionalism, sense of proportion, and independence, even if 10 of its for­mer officers participate in Pilkada. The position of Acting Governor should remain among the officials of the Ministry of the Interior, be­cause the Dwifungsi of Indonesian Police violates Law No. 2 year 2002 concerning the Police,’ she said. (Dessy Aipipidely)