INDONESIA: The President has dismissed the head of the national police

Why has President Yudhoyono not dismissed the head of the Indonesian national police as a response to the scandal the confrontation, or turf war, between the National Police and the Corruption Eradication Commission? Why has no leader of any parliamentary party a clear and strong call for such a dismissal?

Perhaps they all remember what happened in May-June, 2001 when President Abdurrahman (Gus Dur) did the same to General Bimantoro, National Police Chief at that time. Perhaps they remember what happened to President Abdurahman soon afterwards. As a reminder of those days< I reprint some newspaper reports at that time.

Rally of security forces sends a `mutiny’ message to Wahid

South China Morning Post – June 6, 2001

Vaudine England, Jakarta — The word being debated among foreign journalists in Jakarta is “mutiny”. The police chief sacked last week by President Abdurrahman Wahid has refused to step down and his stance is being interpreted by the security forces as a reason for defiance of their own.

About 8,000 police and several hundred soldiers and Marines gathered in a central park near the presidential palace yesterday in what they said was a pre-planned ceremony. But in Jakarta’s highly charged political context, the gathering seemed to be yet another show of defiance towards Mr Wahid.

His decision on Friday to make police chief Surojo Bimantoro “inactive” has provoked a series of meetings by senior police officers, generals and parliamentary faction heads. The message is that Mr Wahid must stop meddling in the institutions of law and order — or else.

The “or else” part has been left tantalisingly vague, but parliamentary leaders are looking for a constitutional excuse to accelerate impeachment moves against Mr Wahid. They say his bid to sack General Bimantoro without their say-so might be it. “We’re not playing politics. We’re professional. But we are not allergic to politics and General Bimantoro is still our leader,” Jakarta police chief Major-General Sofyan Jacoeb said.

He presided over the 10-minute ceremony, which he claimed was held to congratulate police troops for their hard work during a summit of the Group of 15 developing nations last week as well as recent sessions of Parliament.

As well as the presence of men such as Jakarta military chief Major-General Bibit Waluyo, the parade included men from the army strategic reserve command, the marines and the air force, along with armoured vehicles and helicopters. General Bimantoro told the media he had refused to resign for what he said was his refusal to back the President’s efforts to declare emergency rule.

Mr Wahid also might have wanted a more amenable police chief to help prosecute his parliamentary enemies for corruption, in another tactic aimed at stopping impeachment. Some analysts interpreted the surprisingly large gathering of police and troops as a sign from the security apparatus of its possible support for accelerated impeachment.

Mr Wahid replaced General Bimantoro with deputy police chief Chaeruddin Ismail on Saturday. But even this new recruit to power preferred to hug his former boss, General Bimantoro, in public instead of moving at Mr Wahid’s behest to bring the police under presidential control.

Instead of proving Mr Wahid’s claimed control over events, his clumsy steps against the police chief have instead highlighted his weakness.

Despite frequent attempts, he has been unable to impose emergency rule, to scare off Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri from a parliamentary confrontation or to deflect Parliament from its impeachment moves. General Bimantoro has insisted that under prevailing laws he remains the police chief until Parliament approves his dismissal.

Two weeks ago the armed forces carried out shows of force a stones’ throw from the palace where Mr Wahid is ensconced. Now the police have joined in what is a new, subtle version of a mutiny by any other name.

Rift among police displayed over dual leadership

Jakarta Post – June 28, 2001Jakarta –

National Police chief Gen. Surojo Bimantoro had reportedly cut short his minor haj pilgrimage and returned to the capital on Tuesday, after receiving news that there had been a near clash among his middle-ranking officers.

The incident reportedly started with two officers arguing about whether Bimantoro, or National Police deputy chief Comr. Gen. Chaeruddin Ismail, would lead a police briefing linked to a ceremony in observance of the 55th anniversary of the National Police force on July 1.

Bimantoro had left for the minor haj pilgrimage on June 22 and was due to return a week later. National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Didi Widayadi confirmed on Wednesday that Bimantoro returned after hearing the news about the incident on Monday. He refused to elaborate.

Sources said the incident occurred at the National Police Detachment Division (Denma). “Brig. Gen. Rifai Siregar of the National Police internal affairs had ordered Denma Chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Wagio to announce that Chaeruddin would lead the briefing on the dress rehearsal of the police anniversary ceremony,” a police official who requested anonymity told reporters.

Wagio made the announcement, but a few minutes later, he made another announcement, saying Bimantoro would lead the briefing, he said. “Rifai, who was obviously angry, went up to Wagio and reportedly pulled Wagio by the collar, and was reportedly about to hit Wagio in the face.”

Separately, top officials at the National Police Headquarters said on Wednesday that a rift had always been present between the National Police Academy graduates of year 1970, and 1971. Chaeruddin is a 1971 graduate, while Bimantoro graduated in 1970.

Confusion reigned in the halls of the National Police Headquarters on Wednesday, when Didi and Bimantoro ended up making two differing statements.


Didi said that upon arrival at the airport on Tuesday, Bimantoro had reportedly issued two verbal instructions to National Police official Brig. Gen. Logan Siagian. “The first was to formally request the Supreme Court to issue a decree, particularly in connection with the recently issued Presidential Decree No. 77/2001, which reinstates the post of the National Police deputy chief,” Didi said. “Second, to file a lawsuit at the State Administrative Court (PTUN) against three presidential decrees, which concern the dual leadership.”

Didi identified the three decrees as Presidential Decree No. No. 54/2001, which had abolished the post of National Police deputy chief; Presidential Decree No. 40/2001 on the appointment of the National Police deputy chief and Presidential Decree No. 41/2001, on the suspension of the National Police chief.

These statements were however denied, by the National Police chief. “I never gave such instructions … I have spoken to the National Police spokesman about this matter. I just want things to cool down,” Bimantoro said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Didi had said that the National Police is scheduled to formally request the Supreme Court to issue a decree in connection with Presidential Decree No. 77. “This formal request will be made in a few days. The current dual leadership at the National Police, has frankly confused the police force. It is not healthy,” Didi said on Tuesday.

Abdurrahman had recently suspended Bimantoro from his post for defying a presidential order to resign as National Police chief, and had appointed Chaeruddin to take over Bimantoro’s duties.

Indonesia’s Wahid ups pressure on police chief

Reuters – July 7, 2001

Jakarta –

 Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid has stepped up pressure on national police chief General Bimantoro, demanding he relinquish all remaining commands of power, the Jakarta Post reported on Saturday.

Wahid ordered Bimantoro — among several senior security officials to publicly object to the president’s threats to stay in power by declaring a state of emergency — to resign more than a month ago.

Bimantoro has previously refused to go unless parliament approved his dismissal, although on Monday he said he was willing to be replaced. That has created some confusion over whether Bimantoro still remained police chief.

The report said Wahid issued a decree on Friday ordering Bimantoro to return the command baton and all command attributes to the President.

“In a normal reshuffle, the outgoing police chief would hand over his baton to his successor. But as the new police chief has yet to be selected, Pak Bimantoro must return his baton to the superior, that is the President,” the Post quoted chief security minister Agum Gumelar as saying.

Indonesia’s parliament has formally warned Wahid over his move to sack the police chief, adding another black mark to the embattled leader’s record only weeks before his impeachment hearing.

The top legislature will open Wahid’s impeachment hearing on August 1 over his stumbling 20 months in power as Indonesia’s first democratically-elected leader. Most analysts give the Muslim cleric little chance of survival. Wahid renewed his threat to declare a state of emergency on Friday, in what has become his key defence ahead of the hearing.

Police chief just an excuse for MPs to confront Gus Dur Straits Times – July 5, 2001Robert Go, Jakarta — If Indonesian police chief General Suroyo Bimantoro makes it into the history books, it will be because of how parliament has turned him into yet another thorn in President Abdurrahman Wahid’s side.

Parliament has so far supported and encouraged Gen Bimantoro’s defiance against Mr Abdurrahman, who suspended him early last month after his undistinguished nine-month term, and finally sacked him last weekend.

Golkar MP Yasril Ananta Baharuddin, chairman of the Defence, Foreign and Political Affairs Committee, told The Straits Times: “Bimantoro is still our police chief.” Yet analysts described his insubordination as the last gasps of a man with nothing to lose — he is scheduled to retire this month.

During his short stint in office, Gen Bimantoro, Mr Abdurrahman’s third police chief in 20 months, did little to push forward Indonesian police’s reform agenda.

Perhaps his most notable feat was to oversee a beefing-up of the police force’s size and weaponry, including the purchase of thousands of Russian assault rifles. That is not much of an achievement when the police and military are heavily scrutinised for alleged human rights violations.

Even his backers in parliament say they do not really care if he stays or goes. PAN legislator Alvin Lie said: “It doesn’t matter who heads the police. Our reasons for insisting he is still police chief have nothing to do with the man himself.” Mr Yasril agreed: “Parliament’s perspective on this is independent of Gen Bimantoro’s qualifications or achievements.” Gen Bimantoro, who once headed the police force of Bali province, has no clear political ties and does not inspire much loyalty or admiration even within his own force.

More than 100 senior generals signed petitions supporting him last month, yet they also sent congratulatory flowers to Commissioner-General Chaeruddin Ismail, Mr Abdurrahman’s new man on the force.

Mr Kusnanto Anggoro of the Centre for Strategic International Studies said: “The sentiment is replacing Bimantoro could be good for the police force’s reform goals.” So why are legislators so riled up with the way Mr Abdurrahman is treating his police chief? He has breached the Constitution and ignored proper procedures, MPs say, by sacking yet another top police official without parliament’s approval.

“We don’t care about the chief of police. We don’t support Bimantoro, but we reject the President’s constitutional breaches,” said Mr Lie. Analysts warn, however, that by welcoming parliament’s help, Gen Bimantoro is endangering the reform process and is keeping the police involved in politics.

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