Wednesday, April 10, 2013

On The Rule Of Law

There are some very interesting happenings going on these days in Indonesia which I find troubling. A few weeks ago there was a brawl in a niteclub which saw a Kopasssus (special forces) sergeant killed. The suspects were rounded up and sent off to prison awaiting what they presumed  would be a trial. The sergeant's army comrades then  assaulted on the prison, lined up the suspects and shot them in a very professional and cold blooded manner. After a week or so of denials the army finally admitted that their elite Kopassus troops planned and carried out the attacks in some twisted sort of esprit-De-corps revenge killing. There are even reports that the police had been contacted by army in advance and that prisoners were moved to a less secure location in order to facilitate their executions. The head of the army has announced that there will be a court martial and it will be of interest to learn the outcomes of those trials. If past history is any weathervane the most likely outcome will be promotions and high fives for those involved.

What strikes me the most is the acceptance and encouragement of such vigilante action by the general public. Banners and message of support for the Kopassus festooned the streets of Yogya the other day. I have to wonder if Indonesians truly want a society ruled by law or a society that can be perceived by many at times as a thug culture. Is it ironic that one of the banners below reads (my lousy translation) "people of Jogja are anti gangsterism" in support of what only be considered a vigilante and thuggish act? To generalize is it really rational to expect the rule of law when government agents are actively encouraged and supported to subvert that same law? What purpose then in having laws at all?


A note of comparison. While on assignment in Somalia soldiers of the former Canadian airborne regiment assaulted and beat to death a young Somali in their custody. The event caused a huge public debacle in Canada. Several soldiers and officers (including a major) received prison terms. Eventually 2 army chiefs of staff along with the civilian minister of defense were forced to resign. The regiment itself was disbanded in shame, its members subsumed into other army units. All of this occurred while the regiment was on a war footing in a hostile territory.  It would be difficult to imagine any such degree of action in Indonesia. After all the man who stands a very good chance of becoming president next year is a former Kopassus commander.

Photo taken from The Jakarta Post