Jakarta to probe police, military over drug claims

Suspects jailed for drug trafficking being made to destroy illegal narcotics at the police headquarters in Jakarta on July 21. The war on drugs has intensified since Mr Joko took office.
Suspects jailed for drug trafficking being made to destroy illegal narcotics at the police headquarters in Jakarta on July 21. The war on drugs has intensified since Mr Joko took office.PHOTO: REUTERS

Joko orders probe after convicted trafficker allegedly admitted to bribing top officials

JAKARTA • Indonesian President Joko Widodo has ordered an official investigation into allegations that top police and military officers were involved in trafficking illegal drugs.

Claims that senior police and military brass took kickbacks from a drug kingpin have stoked huge controversy in Indonesia, where the government is waging a war on narcotics and had last month executed four convicted traffickers.

Freddy Budiman - who was among the four shot by firing squad - allegedly told a prominent human rights activist in 2014 that he had paid police, military and specialist narcotics agents to protect his lucrative business. The allegations have infuriated Indonesia's powerful police and military institutions. Mr Haris Azhar, the activist at the Commission for Missing Persons who claims he spoke with Budiman, has been threatened with defamation charges since posting the alleged testimony online.

Mr Joko criticised Mr Haris for revealing the allegations years after they were made, but has since instructed the national police chief to investigate. "Trace, expose and process it (the allegations), if it's really true as has been said," he said in a statement on Thursday.

Mr Haris urged the government to shift its focus away from him towards those senior officials accused of conspiring to peddle drugs. "The President must take responsibility. We want an independent team (to investigate the case)," Mr Haris said.

Mr Joko declared a war on drugs when he took office in October 2014 and vowed no clemency for those sentenced to death for trafficking. Eighteen convicted drug smugglers - including 15 foreigners - have been executed in Indonesia under his administration.

But while raids, arrests and punishments pick up, state funding for rehabilitation, that weans people off drugs and cuts demand, is dwindling. "We need support in terms of budget to be able to rehabilitate all drug users in need," Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa said. "Our budget alone is not enough for that; it is experiencing a decline."

Ms Khofifah's ministry aims to rehabilitate 15,000 drug users this year on a budget of 87 billion rupiah (S$8.9 million). Next year, it will only get funds to help 9,000, she said.

A spokesman for Mr Joko, asked about the cut to rehabilitation spending, said many areas were seeing tighter budgets, and it did not mean the President did not value rehabilitation.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2016, with the headline 'Jakarta to probe police, military over drug claims'. Print Edition | Subscribe