‘Satpol must not be armed’

Several regions have objected to proposals that public order officers be allowed to carry guns, even if they only contain blank rounds.

“I received offers by several companies who wanted to sell guns but I have and always will oppose that,” Surabaya Mayor Bambang Dwi Hartono was quoted as saying Saturday by Antara news agency.
He said public order officers should not use any kind of ammunition, be they rubber bullets or blank rounds, let alone live bullets.

“The only protection the officers should be allowed to use is helmets, body armor and shields. Guns are not necessary,” he said.

A decree endorsed in March this year by Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi allows the use of blank rounds, tear gas and tasers by middle-ranking officers and above, including the agency head, division head, section head, platoon leaders and group heads.

The decree stipulates that public order officers could be armed with gas-powered revolvers or blanks and electric shock sticks. This was a revision to a 2005 regulation.

The revision came in the wake of a deadly clash between officers and residents in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta, in which three officers were killed and 130 people injured.

In Semarang, Central Java Governor Bibit Waluyo also opposed the decree.

“Allowing the use of revolvers is not a simple issue. The users must meet strict requirements,” Bibit said.

He added that public order officers did not need the use of guns to enforce regional bylaws.

Bibit said special skills and training were needed for someone to use a gun. Unintended consequences could occur if the person was not psychologically ready to use a firearm, he said, adding that the task of public order officers was different from that of the police or armed forces.

“It’s better for public order officers to carry out their duty with the equipment they currently have,” Bibit said.

Opposition to the new proposal has also come from some public order agencies themselves.

“We don’t need to use guns [in Madiun, East Java]. Our martial arts skills are what we need most,” Madiun Public Order Agency head Edi Purwanto was quoted as saying by Antara.

However, the East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) provincial administration said it would allocate more than Rp 50 million to purchase two Black Guard SS gas-powered revolvers to arm its officers despite criticism from local councilors.

“We are in currently in the tendering process. Some companies have made offers,” NTT Public Order Agency head Yohanes Hawula said in Kupang.

He added his officers were only armed with sticks and lacked shields. He said they need sufficient equipment to carry out their duties.

The revolvers, Yohanes said, were expected to optimize the officers’ function and role.

“We will also eventually purchase electric shock devices,” he added.

Yohanes said that to control the use of the guns, only the agency head, section heads and commanders would be allowed to use them.

Provincial councilor Antonius Landi of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle criticized the plan, arguing that the function and role of public order officers was to enforce the implementation of regional bylaws and to monitor civil servants.

Yemris Fointuna and Suherdjoko contributed to the story from Kupang and Semarang, respectively.

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