Friday, August 27, 2010

Indonesia - Gangsters’ paradise

A string of armed and violent robberies in a number of cities across Indonesia — Jakarta, Makassar, Cirebon, Medan, Serang and the latest in Cimahi — over the last few days have been shocking not only because they left several people dead during a time that has been traditionally peaceful, but also because the country has not witnessed crimes on this scale for some time.

One after another the robberies came as a surprise, occurring at unusual times and places — mostly in broad daylight and in crowded areas. The robberies were also much larger in scale than previous armed thefts in this country, involving more men with heavier weaponry, including M-16, AK-47 and SS-1 machine guns, commonly seen in the battlefield.

Occurring during Ramadan, the robberies were a complete change from the relatively peaceful fasting months of the last couple of years, marred only by raids on nightlife entertainment centers by the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), but not armed robberies.

What was more threatening was that the robberies have continued to occur, despite the deployment of National Police elite troops to key business and financial centers, especially after the striking robbery at the CIMB Niaga bank in Medan, North Sumatra, on Aug. 18, which involved a gang of 16 heavily armed men on motorcycles.

It seems since the initial attack the robbers have skillfully played a hide-and-seek game with the police.

It seems also that they researched their targets well — preying only on places with minimal or little security surveillance. What makes matters worse is the fact that the police have been unable to identify, let alone arrest, any of the assailants.
It is therefore reasonable for us to now question the police force’s capacity to deal with such crimes.

This includes the capability of the police intelligence unit to monitor and anticipate potential robberies and other security threats.

Since the first attack, many observers and police have come forward with ideas and measures to prevent such crimes from recurring. Some have said we need to address the root causes, i.e. poverty and unemployment, by asking the government to create jobs and business opportunities for the public.

Others, particularly police, have suggested and taken initiatives to impose stricter gun controls and limit gun ownership.

Recent data reveals that many persons, including former members of the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM), retired police and military officers as well as civilians, have guns in their possession without license. This excludes homemade guns, which have repeatedly been used in use in conflicts and robberies nationwide.

In fact both measures — addressing the root cause of the robberies and imposing stricter gun controls — would undoubtedly be the perfect formula to prevent more crimes of this nature.

But such measures can only be applied as long-term solutions, since establishing more jobs and business opportunities takes months and even years to achieve. Similarly, imposing gun controls and limiting gun ownership will take weeks, if not months, to become effective.

The most urgent measure for now is thus to deploy more police to guard hotspots and robbery targets. A shortage of personnel cannot be used as an excuse by police — the sole guarantor of security and order in this country — because, according the 2002 Law on the National Police, military assistance can be requested in times of emergency.

There is no time to argue. Minutes and even seconds are important, because crimes do not wait.
Jakarta Post Editorial

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