September 15, 2020, 07.58 PM
Illustration of violence in the street ShutterstockIllustration of violence in the street

JAKARTA, KOMPAS.comIndonesian National Police Deputy Chief Commissioner General Gatot Eddy Pramono attempted to clarify his plan to deputize thugs to aid enforcing health protocols, as Jakarta started to enforce tighter large-scale social distancing (PSBB) this week.

Speaking at a hearing at Parliament’s Commission III on Law and Legislation, Human Rights and Security Affairs, Gatot insisted that the controversy was caused by semantics.

“When I referred to jeger-jeger, it does not necessarily mean hoodlums or gangs. I also meant respected community members,” he said on September 14. “So we are not so much deputizing [street thugs or gangs], but keeping them in the know."

However, the head of the Indonesian parliament’s upper house, the People’s Consultative Assembly or [MPR], disagreed with Gatot.

“It would be best for the police to involve the market’s management, religious and traditional leaders and other figures to enforce Covid-19 health protocols in traditional markets,” said veteran legislator Bambang Soesatyo.

In a statement received by Kompas.com on 15 September, the Golkar Party stalwart added that “[Gatot] must take the psychological effects of [deputizing hoodlums] into account among the public, as the presence of thugs disturbed them and disrupts law and order.”

Also read: Indonesian Police Draw Flak for Plan to Deputize Thugs

The Indonesian Association of Traditional Market Vendors or IKAPPI rejected Gatot’s premise.

“If [the authorities] want better compliance then they should involve vendors’ guilds or the head of the market blocks instead of deputizing thugs, as we take care of our own,” said IKAPPI head Miftahudin.

He noted that being supervised by thugs is an additional burden to vendors already struggling from a 60 to 70 percent decline in revenue since the imposition of large-scale social distancing in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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