Police Say They’re Too Scared to Fight Religious Hard-Liners

JULY 05, 2015

Jakarta. The Indonesian police are reluctant to crack down on hate speech, including by hard-line Islamic groups, because there are no “rewards” for doing so and they fear a backlash, an official has admitted.

Sr. Comr. John Hendri of the National Police’s legal division acknowledged during a discussion in Jakarta on Friday that there was a widely held public perception that the police were unwilling to take on purveyors of hate speech such as groups hostile to minority religious groups.

“The truth is that police officers who see, hear or experience such incidents can file a report [for subsequent investigation], but tend to be scared to because there’s no reward or guarantee of safety for themselves,” he said.

He did not specify what he meant by “reward,” although it is almost universally believed that the Indonesian police typically demand money from anyone filing a report before they will proceed with an investigation.

John said the police were drafting a regulation that would protect officers when taking on cases of hate speech.

“We hope that with this regulation, our officers won’t be scared anymore,” he said.

“Without it, all they’ll have to work on are the existing laws, which require that a member of the public file a complaint [about the hate speech]. But there’s no way a member of any congregation is going to rat on a religious leader who threatens them.”

The claim that the police need protection against purveyors of hate speech is hugely ironic, given that some of the worst perpetrators, in particular the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), have long been championed by the police as providing a community policing service.

Leaked US diplomatic cables dating from 2006 allege that the FPI, responsible for attacks on minority Islamic communities and Christians, receives funding from the police and acts as the force’s “attack dog.” Senior officials at the Jakarta Police and National Police levels have for years defended the FPI as a “partner” to the police and attempted to downplay its litany of transgressions.

Sr. Comr. Chrysnanda Dwi Laksana, the head of the doctorate studies department at the police academy, said the police needed encouragement, not criticism, if they were to do their job of protecting persecuted minority groups.

“We need to make police officers braver, but they’ll only be more afraid if they keep getting criticized,” he said.

Adrianus Meliala, a member of the National Police Commission, a government-sanctioned watchdog for the force, countered that what the police really needed to do was stop making excuses and start protecting minorities.

“The problem isn’t the perpetrators who can’t be controlled, or the regulations that aren’t comprehensive, but the police themselves,” he said.