November 17, 2023
JAKARTA – The House of Representatives Commission III overseeing legal affairs has proposed the formation of a new committee to ensure the police remain impartial in February’s presidential election, days after another House commission created a similar desk to keep tabs on the military, amid concerns over the impartiality of the state apparatus.
In a hearing on Wednesday, several lawmakers at Commission III grilled the National Police – represented in the meeting by the police’s Security Maintenance Agency (Baharkam) chief Comr. Gen. Fadil Imran – over their neutrality ahead of the general election, raising concerns that the police are prone to side with a certain presidential candidate.
These lawmakers are from political parties either supporting the presidential bids of Ganjar Pranowo or Anies Baswedan. While no lawmakers specifically named the candidate pair in question, they seemed to refer to presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto of Gerindra Party and running mate Surakarta Mayor Gibran Rakabuming Raka, the eldest son of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.
Lawmaker Nasir Jamil of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), one of the three parties backing the presidential bid of opposition figurehead Anies, said that the public has begun to question whether the police would stay neutral given that the President’s son is running in the election. Nasir said that the police should do more to dispel these concerns.
“We are asking for the police chief’s commitment […] in regard to independence and neutrality during the election,” Nasir said, adding that he hopes the police chief will not be hesitant in giving out sanctions to partisan officers, so as to avoid giving any preferential treatment to any candidate or party.
The National Police is currently led by Gen. Listyo Sigit Prabowo, who is widely seen as part of Jokowi’s Surakarta circle of military and police officers, dubbed “geng Solo” (the Solo gang), after the popular name for the city of Surakarta, Jokowi’s hometown and where he once served as mayor.
Listyo served as chief of the Surakarta police in 2011 when Jokowi was mayor of the Central Javan city.
Jokowi’s ties to Listyo have sparked concerns of a lack of neutrality in the state apparatus – a concern also voiced by the Indonesian Democratic Party Struggle (PDI-P), the largest party in the House, which has seen its relationship with the President reach a new low after his son joined the race on a rival ticket.
Several members of Commission III, including those of the PDI-P, also cited a recent incident in Bali, where members of the local Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) took down a roadside banner depicting PDI-P presidential candidate Ganjar Pranowo as evidence that some members of the force have not been doing enough to maintain their neutrality.
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Benny Harman of the Democratic Party, another party supporting Anies, took the allegations even further, saying that he has received reports of several alleged incidents that some police officers were actively involved in installing campaign banners on behalf of certain parties.
“People have asked why the National Police are not doing anything about it,” Benny said.
To this end, Commission III chairman Bambang Wuryanto of the PDI-P said that all nine factions in the commission have thrown their weight behind the proposal to form a committee to scrutinize the police and their neutrality.
“[The committee] will be formed at a later date. [Everyone] has agreed, [but it will be discussed] during an internal meeting of Commission III first,” Bambang said.
Baharkam chief Fadil said that the police would welcome the committee and that they would leave its formation entirely up to lawmakers. But he also added that the National Police have several mechanisms, such as the police’s internal affairs division and the ethics body, that can act on partial police officers.
“The system to [investigate and give disciplinary sanctions to] any officers found of breaching ethics is already there within the police institution. We only need to see whether there are violations in the context of the election,” Fadil said.
The formation of the new committee on police neutrality would mirror the one on the military recently established by House Commission I overseeing defense – a scheme which gained traction among lawmakers after Jokowi named Gen. Agus Subiyanto as the sole nominee to be the Indonesian Military (TNI) commander.
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Agus is widely seen as a Jokowi loyalist and also has a Surakarta connection. Jokowi and Agus’ professional relationship dates back to their time in the city, where the general served as the military district commander from 2009 to 2011, overlapping with Jokowi’s tenure as the city mayor.
But Agus appeared to receive no serious pushback – even from the PDI-P – in his confirmation hearing earlier this week, after he claimed he would keep the military out of politics.
All three candidate pairs running in the February presidential election have reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring a fair election and called on the public to take an active role in monitoring the electoral process, while civil society organizations are ramping up their efforts to monitor the electoral process.
Jokowi has said that he was politically neutral and that the coming polls are “very open so that anyone – the public, the media and others – can monitor”.