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Indonesian Police Chief Grilled over Use of Helicopter to Disperse Protesters

October 1, 2020, 05.28 PM

JAKARTA, KOMPAS.comIndonesian National Police Chief Gen. Idham Azis faced intense scrutiny from legislators over the police force's use of a helicopter to disperse a student protest in Central Sulawesi province last weekend.

Speaking at a virtual hearing held by the House of Representatives’ Commission III on Law and Legislation, Human Rights and Security Affairs on 30 September, the police chief expressed regret over the stunt.

“If I had my way, I would have given [the police helicopter pilot] a piece of my mind by smacking them. But as per procedure, I have handed the helicopter pilot over to investigators from [the police’s] Internal Affairs Section for further investigation and other actions,” he said.

Also read: Indonesian Police Criticized for Reviving Infamous Paramilitary Group

“The use of a helicopter to disperse a crowd is not part of the police’s Standard Operating Procedure [SOP]. I have taken action against the pilot for doing so, as he is obviously making the rules as he goes along.”

Commission III legislator from the Golkar Party Supriatna said the police could have handled the demonstration with less use of force.

“What was the [helicopter pilot] thinking when he used a helicopter to disperse the crowd? He could have put them in danger!” he said. “Imagine if the chopper crashed [onto the protesters]. They were very lucky that did not happen.”

Also read: 16 Policemen Detained for Fatal Shooting of Civilian in South Sulawesi

The incident in Kendari happened on September 26 as hundreds of students from Halu Oleo University demonstrated to mark the second anniversary of the death of two students, Randi and Muhammad Yusuf Kardawi, in police custody.

The police helicopter dispersed the students by flying low as they eulogized their dead comrades. The show of force sent the protesters running away to evade dust and flying debris generated by backwash from the chopper’s propellers.

Enraged at their tributes being cut short, the students fought back by throwing stones and bottles at the helicopter. The students continued protesting well into the evening before the police eventually dispersed them with tear gas.

(Writer: Haryanti Puspa Sari | Editor: Diamanty Meiliana)


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