Indonesia steps up cyber patrols, security preparations ahead of elections

Indonesian police provide security as election workers transport ballot boxes to a polling station ahead of the April 17 elections in Trumon, Southern Aceh province, on April 15, 2019.
Indonesian police provide security as election workers transport ballot boxes to a polling station ahead of the April 17 elections in Trumon, Southern Aceh province, on April 15, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - Indonesian police have stepped up cyber patrols, targeted potential conflict hot spots and prepared contingency plans to ensure security ahead of Wednesday's (April 17) elections.

It is the first time the country is holding simultaneous presidential and legislative elections, in which more than 192 million people are eligible to vote.

Incumbent President Joko Widodo is seeking his second and final term in office, squaring off with only rival former army general Prabowo Subianto in a rematch of their 2014 contest. Indonesia holds a general election every five years.

With tensions high in some parts of the country - especially where both camps have similar numbers of supporters - police have anticipated every worst-case scenario and mapped out areas most prone to social conflicts and disputes, police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo told The Straits Times on Tuesday.

Among the 34 provinces, Jakarta, Central Sulawesi, Papua, and West Java are among the most prone, according to Brigadier-General Dedi.

By towns or regency, Tangerang Selatan of Banten province, North Jakarta, West Jakarta, Pidie Raya of Aceh, and Tanah Datar in West Sumatra are among the most prone.

Some 272,880 police personnel, assisted by 68,854 military officers, will help to provide security at polling stations across the world's largest archipelagic state, and patrol vital national installations such as power plants and airports as well as any places where crowds gather, such as shopping malls.

More than one million civilian security guards will also be deployed to some 810,000 polling stations.

  • 10 areas most prone to social conflicts, disputes

  • By province: North Maluku, Papua, Aceh, West Nusa Tenggara, West Sulawesi, Central Sulawesi, West Papua, Jakarta, Central Kalimantan, North Kalimantan. Note: the most populous West Java is 11th most prone.

    By regency/town: South Tangerang, North Jakarta, Pidie Raya of Aceh, Banggai of Central Sulawesi, Donggala of Central Sulawesi, West Jakarta, Mempawah of West Kalimantan, Tanah Datar of West Sumatra, East Jakarta, Yogyakarta.

Some elements in both Mr Joko's and Mr Prabowo's camps have repeatedly issued appeals to fellow supporters to turn out and try to crowd out the polling stations in a show of force to raise the morale of other voters in their respective camp.

Police have appealed to local election supervisory officers in the regencies and towns to work together with local campaign teams of both camps to tell supporters to exercise restraint and to not be easily provoked.

"We are also stepping up cyber patrols, working with the communication and information ministry and the cyber body and national encryption agency (BSSN) to take down and block any content, anonymous accounts that carry hoaxes, provocative, agitative messages that threaten unity," Brig-Gen Dedi said. "Social media has potential to change public opinion, to agitate people and encourage them to take to the streets. This is dangerous."

Officers guarding the elections are being deployed into seven assignment areas, with each area covering several provinces.

 
 
 

If an incident breaks out in one place, personnel from the surrounding places within the same assignment area as well as from neighbouring assignment areas could be redeployed to the problem spot, according to Mr Dedi.

"Let's say we have a situation in Aceh, then the surrounding places within the same assignment area such as North Sumatra and Riau would first help to mitigate and curb any developing social conflict. Each of those places would redeploy 100 of its troops to Aceh," Mr Dedi said.

He added that a 10,000-strong police mobile brigade on standby outside Jakarta that could also be redeployed.