The National Police have denied acting arbitrarily against people who hold political views that differ from those of the government, after a recent survey suggested that the majority of Indonesians believed that authorities had used excessive force against people who spoke out against the status quo.
“We are not arbitrary towards, for example, people with different opinions. Of course, every [police action] is in line with the law since it is the police that implement the law,” National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Awi Setiyono said, as quoted by kompas.com on Monday.
Awi asserted that the police had acted on reports to make arrests and on legal protocol to charge those arrested.
“A person charged in a criminal case is, of course, linked to criminal incidents. Regarding which [legal] elements have been violated, that’s where the legal construction is used,” he said.
Awi said those who were not satisfied with the police’s actions could file pretrial lawsuits.
A recent survey by Indonesian Political Indicators (IPI) found that many Indonesians had grown fearful of expressing their opinions as they believed Indonesia was becoming “increasingly undemocratic”.
Some 80 percent of respondents to the survey, which polled 1,200 people throughout the country from Sept. 24 to Sept. 30, said they had become more afraid to publicly voice their opinions on current issues, while about 58 percent believed authorities had used excessive force against those who held political views that diverged from the ruling regime.
Critics and human rights activists have criticized the security approach taken by the police during recent mass protests against the controversial Job Creation Law.
The Coalition for Reform of the Security Sector, a group of civil society organizations, said the police had used excessive force and had attempted to block arrested protestors’ access to legal aid.
The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) received some 1,500 complaints about alleged violence by security forces during a three-day wave of demonstrations earlier this month.
The police have denied acting repressively during demonstrations against the jobs law.
“Regarding the process of safeguarding the demonstrations, as I have previously stated, don’t spin it to say that the police are repressive. We are not repressive. Police officer are humans too,” Awi said.
Awi said police officers had taken training courses on human rights and on the psychology of large groups. Moreover, he said, the police had adhered to standard procedures in handling protests.
He said police action had been in line with the escalation that had occurred in the field.
“When the masses become anarchic, of course the police will take measures, from utilizing bare hands, bats and shields to firing water cannons and tear gas,” he said, adding that such steps were necessary to maintain public order. (syk)