Jakarta. Police and military officers have brushed off accusations of interference in last week's simultaneous regional elections and vowed to remain nonpartisan during the presidential election next year.
The neutrality of the Indonesian Military, the National Police and the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) has been publicly questioned since former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono a press conference on June 23 that individuals from these institutions had tried to sabotage his Democratic Party to decrease its chances in the poll.
Former chief of the military, Gen. Moeldoko, who is now President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's chief of staff, said such accusations are normal during the time of elections.
"It's the public's right to criticize […] But if we are constantly being accused, it irritates us, as there are have been no cases in which the military had forced anyone to chose any candidate," Moeldoko said on Thursday (05/07).
According to the Working Group on Political Security (P8), between 2015 and 2018, the president, police and military chiefs have pledged electoral neutrality 74 times.
While they, especially the military, used to be partisan during the authoritarian era of the New Order, which had incorporated them into the state bureaucracy, the law enforcement agencies have changed since two decades ago.
"The military's neutrality now depends on its chief. If the chief is not neutral, then his subordinates will be confused. That is why it's necessary for the leaders to have good intentions to ensure that all soldiers are neutral," Moeldoko said.
Fadil Imran, deputy chief of National Police's Nusantara Task Force, said that officers who interfere with elections will be punished.
"If you see a violation [by a member] of our institution, please make a report and not only share it in social media. […] We don't want to be used as a political instrument," he said.
The task force, which collaborates with religious and community leaders, was established in January to cool ethno-religious tensions related to the regional election.
On June 20, Maluku Police deputy chief Brig. Gen. Hasanuddin was dismissed from office after reports were filed accusing him of requesting that officers should support one gubernatorial candidate.
According to Fadil, no similar cases had been recorded in other regions.
Titi Anggraini, executive director of the Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem), said the law already imposes neutrality on the police and military, but some work still needs to be done to improve its implementation.
Guidelines for the police and military conduct during elections are outlined in the 2002 National Police Law, the 2004 Indonesian Military Law and the 2017 General Election law.
According to Titi, a recommendation by Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo to appoint high-ranking police officers as acting governors has stimulated public doubt.
In January, Tjahjo recommended to appoint Gen. Martuani Sormin, the police's head of internal affairs, as interim governor of North Sumatra, and former Jakarta Police chief Comr. Gen. M. Iriawan, now secretary of the National Resilience Institute (Lemhanas), as interim governor of West Java. While Martuani's appointment was canceled, Iriawan was inaugurated on June 18.
"There needs to be consistency between the statements and actions of the authorities, especially the police, otherwise they will always appear as non-neutral to the public," Titi told the Jakarta Globe.