Indonesian Police Say They’re Scared to Confront Religious Radicals

Indonesia Police Forces

Police forces in Indonesia are reluctant to crack down on religious hardliners and those that frequently deliver hate speeches because there are absolutely no rewards for doing so and officials have to often face backlash.

John Hendri, senior commander of the National Police’s legal division, addressed the widely prevailing public perception that Indonesia’s police are unwilling to take on radical Islamists who are overtly hostile towards religious minorities during a conference in Jakarta early July.

“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.

While Hendri did not specify what exactly he meant by the term reward, it is a well-known fact that Indonesia’s police force typically seeks monetary incentives from any person filing a report before starting an investigation.

Hendri also said that his department has been working on a regulation that would offer protection to police officers when they tackle religious hardliners.

“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.”

Hendri’s claim that the police requires protection against purveyors of hate speech is however rather ironic, considering some of the worst perpetrators, especially those associated with Islamic Defenders Front, have been defended by the police repeatedly as providing community service through moral policing.

Leaked American diplomatic cables from 2006 prove how Islamic Defenders Front, that is known for frequently attacking Indonesia’s religious minorities, received financial benefits from the police to act as the force’s attack dog. Apart from those leaked cables, senior officials of Jakarta Police as well as those working for the force’s national levels, have for decades defended Islamic Defenders Front as a partner of the police and constantly attempted to downplay its unending list of unlawful conduct.

Chrysnanda Dwi Laksana, senior commander and head of the doctorate studies department in the police academy, said that Indonesian police require encouragement, not criticism if they are expected to carry out their duties effectively.

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

Adrianus Meliala, a government-sanctioned watchdog for the police and member of National Police Commission, said what the forces really needed to do is to stop making excuses and start protecting the country’s religious 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.

Photo Credits: The Telegraph

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