Jakarta – The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) is urging National Police Chief Idham Azis to cancel the plan by the Covid-19 Task Force to employ preman (street thugs, petty criminals) to enforcing health protocols in markets.
Kontras Coordinator Faria Maulidiyanti believes that the plan has the potential to further worsen the situation and is evidence of the police’s failure to carry out their security and law enforcement duties.
“Instead of making law enforcement more effective, we are concerned that the policy will in fact trigger horizontal conflicts as a consequence of certain social groups feeling that they have been legitimised”, said Maulidiyanti in a press release on Saturday September 12.
Moreover, said Maulidiyanti, according to Kontras’ records it is the police as an institution which are the most dominant party in committing inhuman acts against the people.
With such a track record, Maulidiyanti says there is no guarantee that the police will closely supervise preman applying health protocols in markets. She is concerned that the plan will in fact allow preman to act arbitrarily in maintaining control without close supervision by the police.
Maulidiyanti even predicted that in the medium- to long-term, the plan will give rise to groups that will take the law into their own hands (vigilante groups) because they feel that they are protected by state institutions.
“We think that these policy choices and actions do not represent policies based on scientific data but rather demonstrate a security approach which will produce various forms of human rights violations”, she explained.
On the other hand, she said, policies such mass testing, contact tracing and guaranteeing the basic needs of people who have been impacted upon by Covid-19 are in fact not being prioritised.
Earlier, National Covid-19 Response and Economic Recovery Committee Acting Deputy Chairperson and Deputy Police Chief Commissioner General Gatot Eddy Pramono started a discourse on the involvement of market preman to enforce discipline and the use of masks in markets in order to prevent new corona virus clusters.
The plan, said Pramono, which would be similar to the now defunct Yustisia Operations (Operasi Yustisia, against new arrivals in Jakarta), would be to prevent new clusters amid a surge in Covid-19 cases in Indonesia.
The Yustisia Operation would begin by improving social discipline of health protocols with the involvement of the national police (Polri), the Indonesian military (TNI), Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) officials and the Attorney General’s Office.
“There are big-time preman at markets, we will turn them into discipline enforcers, but they would remain under the direction of the TNI-Polri using humanitarian methods”, said Pramono at the Metro Jaya regional police headquarters on Thursday September 10. (thr/vws)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “KontraS: Batalkan Pelibatan Preman dalam Penegakan Protokol”.]