The Jakarta Post, Jakarta Sat, February 02 2013,
The National Police have downplayed a report claiming them to be complicit in attacks against religious minorities in the country, adding that they have taken action against those who have broken the law.
On Thursday, the New York-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report slamming Indonesian authorities, especially the police, for allowing hard-liners to persecute religious minorities such as the Shia and Ahmadiyah.
The authorities’ reluctance to take action against hard-liners has led to a mounting number of attacks against minorities to 264 last year, a significant jump from 144 cases in 2011, according to data from Indonesia’s Setara Institute.
“If there is any law violation, the police will enforce the law. There is no omission,” National Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Agus Rianto told The Jakarta Post on Friday
However, Agus implied that, under specific circumstances, the police could not solely protect minorities from assaults.
“If, at the time, the police officers were outnumbered by a mob, an omission could happen,” he said at National Police headquarters in South Jakarta.
The HRW report showed that the police and other government authorities had bowed to the power of large, angry mobs.
“Violence and discrimination against religious minorities, particularly Ahmadiyah, Bahai, Christians, and Shia, deepened,” the report said.
Parishioners of the Filadelfia Batak Christian Protestant Church (HKBP) in Bekasi and the Yasmin Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) in Bogor faced intimidation when trying to worship during Christmas 2012.
Some members of the congregations claimed that the police personnel, who were present at that time, did nothing when hard-line local residents attacked and showered them with sewage and rotten eggs. “Incidents of violence against religious minorities were frequent and occasionally deadly. Islamist militants mobilized mobs to attack religious minorities with impunity,” the report reads.
Responding to the criticism, Agus called on all elements of society to maintain peace and religious tolerance. “We expect the public to understand that they should not take the law into their own hands. Please respect each other. Violence will not solve our problems,” he said.
National Police chief Gen. Timur Pradopo said that the police would make their focus on dealing with communal conflicts, including those that were triggered by religious intolerance, more thorough and careful.
“We’ve determined three priorities this year; corruption, terrorism and social conflicts,” he said after a police annual meeting on Thursday.
Agus said that during the meeting, which involved all chiefs of police (Kapolda), they mapped more than 16,000 conflict hot spots across the archipelago.
“When the chiefs get back to their regions, they should discuss this with the regional administrations and Indonesian Military [TNI] personnel in the region,” Timur explained.