JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com – Indonesian National Police Chief Gen. Idham Azis caused a stir by proposing to resurrect the Pam Swakarsa, a paramilitary unit implicated in human rights abuses after the fall of President Soeharto’s New Order regime in May 1998.
Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) Arteria Dahlan, a member of the House of Representatives’ Commission III on Law and Legislation, Human Rights and Security Affairs criticized the 53-year-old’s suggestion.
“Resurrecting the Pam Swakarsa is a sensitive issue for those of us with first-hand experience of the upheavals in 1998. We knew all too well that they were used to repress democratic activities [by students and activists],” Arteria said during the hearing on September 30.
Legislator Habiburokhman of the Gerindra Party likewise opposed the reinstatement of the Pam Swakarsa. “If Idham wants to revive Pam Swakarsa, I suggest that he change the name to avoid traumatizing the public.”
However, National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Awi Setiyono insisted that Pam Swakarsa, which means Civilian Security Initiative, has been practiced as a concept by the police for years.
“Actually, the Pam Swakarsa encompassed security guards, neighborhood watches and traditional [law enforcement] units such as the pecalang in Bali. This is already laid out in a police directive released earlier in 2020,” he said.
“We will ensure that these units will not use excessive force”. Awi assured that today’s Pam Swakarsa will have nothing in common with their eponymously named predecessors.
The Pam Swakarsa was incriminated for their role in the Semanggi unrest in November 1998 which left six university students dead.