Jokowi’s tough stance on drugs stirs de­bate

Law­mak­ers back ‘shoot-on-sight’ or­der; rights groups doubt im­pact

The Straits Times - - ASIA - Wahyudi So­e­ri­aat­madja

in­clud­ing at least eight for­eign­ers, have been killed by the po­lice so far this year, com­pared with just 18 last year.

The po­lice have yet to con­firm these fig­ures, but many hu­man rights groups have started to ques­tion if the killings have had any im­pact on In­done­sia’s war on drugs.

Amnesty In­done­sia di­rec­tor Usman Hamid said: “Not only is this un­law­ful, it will also do noth­ing to ad­dress the root causes that lead to drug use in the first place.”

Others, like Hu­man Rights Watch’s Asia di­vi­sion deputy di­rec­tor Phe­lim Kine, sug­gest that ef­forts to ad­dress the prob­lem of drugs and crime “re­quire the se­cu­rity forces to re­spect every­one’s ba­sic rights”.

The pre­vail­ing think­ing in lo­cal law en­force­ment is that the num­ber of drug deal­ers killed still pales in com­par­i­son to the num­ber of peo­ple who have died from sub­stance abuse, said Na­tional Nar­cotics Agency (BNN) spokesman Sulis­tian­dri­atmoko.

A 2015 sur­vey by the Univer­sity of In­done­sia found that be­tween 30 and 40 peo­ple die from drug abuse each day in the coun­try, he added.

Mr Sulis­tian­dri­atmoko, who goes by one name, said he be­lieves the drug sit­u­a­tion is at an “emer­gency” stage, and In­done­sia can­not af­ford to let up on its fight against drugs.

In fact, the prob­lem is so wide­spread that the po­lice are rop­ing in the In­done­sian mil­i­tary to help, just like they have in the fight against ter­ror­ists. The move could lead to an es­ca­la­tion of Mr Joko’s anti-drug war.

“Drug smug­glers are the na­tion’s en­e­mies, hence the mil­i­tary should have a right to use force to fight these en­e­mies,” said Mr Sulis­tian­dri­atmoko.

But his boss and BNN chief Budi Was­eso has come out to as­sure crit­ics that In­done­sia will not repli­cate Mr Duterte’s bloody war on drugs.

The new “shoot-on-sight” pol­icy has also raised ques­tions over Mr Joko’s stand on the death penalty, and the ef­fec­tive­ness of cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment as an anti-drug de­ter­rent.

In­done­sia has some of the world’s tough­est drug laws, and re­mains one of 33 coun­tries that still use cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment for drug-re­lated of­fences. Since it lifted a four-year mora­to­rium on the death penalty in 2013, 18 peo­ple – all drug traf­fick­ers, most of them for­eign­ers – have been sent to face the fir­ing squad.

How­ever, Ms Clau­dia Sto­ic­escu, a re­searcher at the Univer­sity of Ox­ford’s Cen­tre for Ev­i­dence Based In­ter­ven­tion, said ex­e­cu­tions and crack­downs on drug of­fend­ers have not yielded any long-term ben­e­fits for In­done­sia.

She said: “Far from hav­ing a de­ter­rent ef­fect, the num­ber of drug-re­lated crimes in In­done­sia in­creased in the months af­ter the ex­e­cu­tions were car­ried out in Jan­uary and April 2015.”


In­done­sian po­lice with two sus­pects af­ter a raid on a ware­house on the out­skirts of Jakarta on July 21, where the au­thor­i­ties seized Ec­stasy pills. There has been a rise in the traf­fick­ing of Ec­stasy, heroin, and metham­phetamine into In­done­sia, and law­mak­ers say the coun­try needs to get tough on its war on drugs.

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