MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Unchecked thuggery could lead to organized crime'

Published by MAC on 2003-03-17

'Unchecked thuggery could lead to organized crime'

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

March 17, 2003

The government should not turn a blind eye to rampant thuggery and instead, should lead a national anti-hoodlumism movement, as thuggery could lead to the emergence of organized crime, a politician and a criminologist have said.

United Development Party of Reform (PPP Reformasi) executive Zaenal Ma'arif called on the president to start "a dramatic step to eradicate thuggery practices".

"There is no other way but a drastic action from the president to use her authority (against thuggery practices)," he said, referring to the attack on the office and journalists of Tempo weekly magazine by men working for notorious businessman Tomy Winata.

Zaenal described Tomy, a tycoon known for his close association with high-ranking security officers and government officials, as "a mysterious man who is untouchable by law".

The attack against Tempo revealed that organized thuggery practices did exist in the country, and often under the consent of high-ranking security officials, Zaenal told Antara.

The Tempo incident has prompted community and national leaders, including People's Consultative Assembly Speaker Amien Rais, to call upon the government to eradicate thuggery practices.

Senior journalists from various media organizations have also launched a movement against thuggery, saying that if thuggery practices were left unchecked, freedom of expression would eventually be undermined.

Following mounting public pressure for the government and the House of Representatives to act against thuggery, the House Commission I on security and foreign affairs is scheduled to conduct a hearing with National Police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar, representatives of Tempo, as well as Tomy Winata on Monday.

Criminologist M. Mustafa at the University of Indonesia noted that thuggery practices had been expanding without resistance in recent years, he told The Jakarta Post on Saturday, adding that organized hoodlums on the streets to large-scale gangs of thugs were available everywhere in the country.

Large-scale thug organizations are usually involved in debt collection, prostitution rings, drug dealings and gambling dens. Worse, Mustafa said, the organized hoodlums had been growing in number as they had established cooperation with security officers, bureaucrats and even politicians.

Saying that such practices existed in almost all countries in the world, he called on the government to take firm steps against thuggery, as it threatened the citizens' rights to protection.

Mustafa warned that if they were not reigned in from now on, these thuggery practices could become "the embryo of organized crime". He said that thuggery groups paid security officers in order to protect their often illegal businesses. Furthermore, these groups might even cooperate with government officials and politicians for additional business opportunities.

The attack on Tempo magazine was not the first one committed by men claiming to be sympathizers of Tomy. Last year, people claiming to represent Tomy threatened to burn down the office of Forum Keadilan magazine after the magazine ran a story implicating Tomy in connection with the drug business in Indonesia.

Last year, Tomy's Artha Graha Bank dispute with Indian firm Polaris led to the detainment of Polaris chairman Arun Jain and vice president Rajiv Malhotra. Both were released following unrelenting pressure from the Indian government.

The Tempo incident on March 8 started when some 200 people claiming to represent businessman Tomy Winata stormed the magazine's office, demanding

it retract an article in its March 3 edition about Tomy's plan to renovate Tanah Abang Market before it was gutted by a fire last month.

Several of the protesters forced a Tempo journalist to reveal the source quoted in the article. As the journalist refused, they threatened him, saying that Tomy bought equipment for the police and that he could easily buy the magazine.

In the presence of policemen, one of the protesters hurled a tissue box, injuring a journalist. They also assaulted the journalist and chief editor Bambang Harymurti at the Central Jakarta Police station.

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