Donny Syofyan, Padang | Sun, 07/11/2010 10:51 AM | Opinion A | A | A |

A heated dispute between the National Police and Tempo magazine seems to be
waning following the police’s stated a desire to solve the fracas out of the
court. The magazine’s cover illustration of a caricature of a police officer
leading piggy banks on a leash has sparked the anger from the police.

Rather than responding to the story’s allegations on implausibly large bank
accounts held by some police generals, the police filed a complaint with the
Press Council.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s call for calm between Tempo magazine
and the police is highly appreciated. However, it’s a useless gesture
without police action to impose sanctions against generals who have
allegedly amassed wealth.

Despite a meeting between Tempo and the National Police to discuss a
mediated solution, the dispute indicates that fears of the National Police’s
intellectually bankruptcy are even worse than imagined. Several causes
confirm the concerns.

First, a tradition of dialogue has long been absent from the National
Police. The police have given the magazine’s cover and report a sound
pounding, suggesting that the institution is under deadly attack.

The police threat to sue the weekly magazine, which has since been
retracted, is unnecessary since the nature of the caricature is purely

The appointment of three-star police general Ito Sumardi to investigate how
21 police officers accumulated huge bank balances with meager salaries
clearly indicates how the police are not ready to debate and entertain
intense criticism. The police are supposed to establish an independent team
including Tempo journalists and Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis
Centre (PPATK) officers to further probe into the police bank accounts.

The police are prone to address the issue in a delicate way. Tempo’s report
does not represent the whole National Police body, they say, only 21 of its
personnel. In other words, it is not a general trend.

It is unfortunate that the filing a complaint by the police with the Press
Council have proved its defense-mechanism on one side and its security
approach on the other. The former focuses on resolving and transforming
conflict, while the latter focuses on punishment.

Second, the police are running out of intellectual officers. In response to
any particular issue, an
intellectual prefers erudite discussion to prejudice. The quarrel between
the National Police and Tempo magazine calls for more cerebral resolution.

The police’s image will not be so poor if they adopt scholarly approaches,
like delivering response articles to frame positive debate and maintain
two-way communication in the media.

The National Police are not now headed in that direction. Having failed to
preserve its image, the police busy themselves with ambitious works, such as
terrorism eradication.

If Petrus Reinhard Golose, an intellectual police officer, succeeded in
releasing his book entitled Deradicalizing Terrorism, how come the police
are not capable of publishing other books, on bribery or internal
corruption? Terrorism eradication is crucial. Bribery elimination, however,
is equally important.

Third, the police are applying unfair treatment. The police lack focus and
have a biased approach.

The police’s success in eradicating corruption and their failure in coping
with bribery actually reinforces its poor performance and biases. It is
likely the issue on police bank accounts is a tipping point of the
deep-rooted illness within the institution.

The public might recall the case of Susno Duadji, which aired allegations of
decay and disease in the police force. While the police quickly detained
Susno, they failed to get rid of corrupt officers in the country’s
enforcement institutions.

Public disappointment with the police makes sense. Imagine! Just as Susno
was unsuccessful in revealing police corruption, Tempo magazine is perceived
to encounter many more hurdles in exposing the vicious circle of rotten
police officials. Grass roots people long witness how bribery probes of
high-ranking and law enforcement officials have gone off the rails.

Tempo journalists as well as Susno have appeared on stage as whistleblowing
saints amid a corrupt system. Failure to provide protection for them will
only protect corrupt officers and invite the death of whistleblowers in this

The writer is a lecturer at Andalas University, Padang, and a graduate of
the University of Canberra in Australia.


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