Police close ranks, defy Gus Dur decree

Indonesian leader left red-faced as police top brass sign petition saying they won’t be drawn into politics.

President Abdurrahman Wahid was staring at another political defeat yesterday after police generals rebelled against his decision to sack top commander General Suroyo Bimantoro.

In what was an embarrassing slap in the face, Inspector General Chaeruddin Ismail – his choice for deputy national police chief – also rebuffed the radical move by signing a declaration with another 101 officers to reject any attempt by the President to drag the police into politics.

Jakarta police chief Inspector-General Sofjan Jacoeb read out the six-point statement after police top brass held crisis talks with Gen Bimantoro, who continued to defy a presidential order to step down.

“We do not want any intervention or to be politicised. The police are not a tool of power but tool of the state,” he said. Gen Bimantoro yesterday continued to insist that he was in charge of the police, having received support from Parliament and the armed forces (TNI).

Legislators, on the verge of impeaching the President in less than two months, said they would not back his plan. For one, any move to appoint a new deputy national police chief conflicted with a decree he issued in April, on restructuring the police, which scrapped the post.

And according to the law, Mr Abdurrahman now must consult Parliament for any changes in the military or police leadership, something he blatantly had not done in this instance.

Indeed, legislators were angered by the move he made last year to replace then police commander Rusdihardjo without consulting them. A Golkar legislator, after meeting with Gen Bimantoro, said: “We can’t allow Gus Dur to run Indonesia like a cowboy state. There are rules to follow and as a head of state he should set the right example by following them.”

Top army generals too expressed strong reservations at the way the President handled the matter.

Sources said that at a meeting chaired by TNI chief Widodo Adisucipto, senior officers maintained that the President had not acted on strong grounds for his decision.

Gen Bimantoro was apparently sacked because the police opened fire to quell a rampage in East Java last week where Mr Abdurrahman’s supporters from the Nadhlatul Ulama were demonstrating against impeachment proceedings.

But the military, now appearing to close ranks with the police, said security forces responded correctly.

An army general said: “We’re not going to sit back and allow his people to burn and loot. The problems would never have happened if he had controlled his supporters in the first place.”

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