One important part of democratic consolidation in Indonesia is to finalize security sector reform, especially the reorganization of the National Police.
While no major questions are being asked about the progress of reform within the Indonesian Military (TNI) and state intelligence bodies, there has been a public debate about the need to amend Law No. 2/2002 on the National Police — especially in light of the ongoing conflict between the police and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).
The fact that two presidents who were both directly elected by the people — first Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and now Joko Widodo — have had to face the same problem, provides a strong indication that something has to be done.
The president should be able to command the entire system of law enforcement. If the president has no effective control over law enforcement agencies, there is a danger that the state’s credibility will be jeopardized not only in the eyes of its own people but also among foreign investors.
There is no doubt that Indonesia has made a lot of progress in the area of security sector reform. We now have strong legal umbrellas under which defense and security institutions operate. However, as far the National Police is concerned, the institutional arrangement is quite different.
Article 3 of Law No. 34/2004 clearly stipulates that in regards to the mobilization of military personnel the TNI reports to the president and that defense policies and strategies should be coordinated by the Defense Ministry. Thus, the president — through his defense minister — must make sure that military policies are in line with his vision and priorities.
However, there is no such mechanism in place to ensure presidential control over the National Police, and the president is also not allowed to interfere in law enforcement efforts being undertaken by police.
This is exactly the reason why Joko has had a hard time in reconciling the National Police and the KPK, and why the president appears to be powerless in stopping the criminalization of the anti-graft body. The situation has become even more complicated because the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the ruling party, has refused to support the president on this matter.
It goes without saying that Indonesia needs a strong and professional National Police force to tackle threats against national security, including transnational terrorism, religious radicalism, drug trafficking, human trafficking, arms smuggling and separatist movements.
But considering its key position within the law enforcement system, there must be an embedded institutional guarantee that policies of the National Police are line with the grand strategy of the president as the nation’s top executive. And this can only be done if there is a political will to amend Law No. 2/2002 by placing the National Police under the control of a ministry responsible for domestic security affairs.
Under the current system, which allows the National Police to freely set out its policy plans, the institution can always hide behind statements that whatever it wants to do, is done in the name of law enforcement. In that case, even the president cannot interfere.
It is up to the House of Representatives to consider amendments to Law No. 2/2002. To be sure, there will be strong resistance from the National Police. However, if Indonesia truly wants to improve the quality of its law enforcement system, the first step is to reform the National Police and to make sure it is willing to operate under effective presidential control.
For the sake of good governance and the consolidation of democracy, we cannot afford to have an institution with the authority to arrest people without a sound legal basis. If we fail to change the status quo, we will keep encountering the same problem in the future and an effective law enforcement system will remain elusive.
Aleksius Jemadu is dean of the School of Government and Global Affairs at Pelita Harapan University (UPH) in Karawaci.
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