By Arie Firdaus
Indonesia’s new anti-drug czar pledged Monday to carry on with the programs and policies of his predecessor, including gunning down narcotics suspects who violently resist arrest.
Inspector General Heru Winarko, the new chief of the National Narcotics Agency (BNN), spoke to reporters in Jakarta after a formal ceremony during which the outgoing head, Budi Waseso, turned over the reins.
“If they resist and they have a weapon, yes, there is no choice [other than shooting them],” Heru said, referring to suspected drug dealers.
Heru made the statement weeks after rights groups severely criticized the Indonesian national police force for handing its highest award to the Philippine’s top law-enforcement official.
In February, Indonesian Police Chief Gen. Tito Karnavian gave the honor to Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Ronald dela Rosa and described the general leading Manila’s deadly drug war as a “rockstar-like inspiration.”
Heru’s threat to use violent force came as police also ramped up their anti-narcotics efforts.
On Feb. 12, Karnavian ordered police to shoot drug dealers, especially foreign nationals, dead if they resisted arrest.
“If drug dealers resist, shoot [them] dead on the spot … especially, foreign nationals who target Indonesia as a place to distribute drugs,” the news portal BeritaSatu.com quoted Karnavian as saying. “Take firm action, shoot them dead.”
Karnavian’s comments came after authorities arrested four Taiwanese men who had allegedly tried to smuggle a ton of methamphetamine on a fishing vessel into the country.
‘Be merciless’: Jokowi
The orders to shoot drug suspects came from the very top of Indonesia’s government.
Last year, when President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said at least 4.5 million Indonesians had become addicted or exposed to drugs, he called for lethal force against foreign drug dealers who resisted arrest.
“Be firm, especially to foreign drug dealers who enter the country and resist arrest. Enough, just shoot them. Be merciless,” he said in a July 21 speech in Jakarta.
High-ranking police officials have recently called for tougher measures against drug-related crimes despite protests from rights groups.
Since 2015, Indonesia has executed 18 convicted drug offenders, Amnesty International said.
In 2017, according to official figures, police shot dead 79 people – 69 Indonesians and 10 foreigners – when they resisted arrest during drug-related incidents.
Police also arrested more than 58,000 drug suspects and authorities seized almost five tons of meth.
Bramantya Basuki, a researcher with Amnesty International Indonesia, cast doubt on the accuracy of the police figures.
Citing Amnesty’s figures, Bramantya said police had shot dead 18 drug suspects, but that number grew to 99 in 2017.
“We have seen no signs of decline this year, because, until the end of February, there have been 13 people shot dead,” he told BenarNews.
Ajeng Larasati, coordinator of research and policy at the Community Legal Aid Institute, said the threat of being summarily executed had failed to deter drug-related crimes in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
“If the deterrent effect is the goal, the shooting incidents will not happen again,” she told a press conference in Jakarta on Monday. “But this still happens every month.”
The fatalities, she said, are often low-level drug dealers, not drug kingpins.
“If they die, big dealers can hire new ones. This would not stop the drug circulation,” she said. “So, why don’t we arrest them [instead of shooting them dead], so police can get information from them to reveal bigger dealers?”
Jakarta pales in comparison with Manila’s level of extrajudicial killings.
But Heru’s predecessor, Budi Waseso, said he had no objection to being compared with President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, where, according to rights groups, about 12,000 people have been shot dead in an anti-drug clampdown that began in June 2016.
“I’m crazier than Duterte,” Budi said.