Subject: Standoff in DPR Over Policing In Military Bill

The Jakarta Globe

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Standoff in DPR Over Military Policing Bill

Markus Junianto Sihaloho

A House committee on Wednesday failed to agree on a Ministry of Defense proposal that would allow Military Police to continue investigating civilian crimes committed by soldiers. Under the plan, the power to prosecute those cases would be handed over from its own courts to civilian jurisdiction.

Andreas Hugo Pareira, the chairman of the special committee on the military tribunal bill deliberation, said after the meeting that only five out of 10 party factions agreed to the proposal.

"Four party factions still reject the idea and five agree," Andreas said. "So we still cannot decide whether to accept or oppose the idea."

He said the parties opposing the bill believed that the plan would damage the national legal system.

"This is because Indonesia only recognizes the police as the sole investigators for any common civilian crimes," Andreas said.

He said the committee would summon Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono to attend the next committee meeting to hear his input on the parties' concerns.

The proposal has been drawing controversy since legislators began working on the bill four years ago. In 2006, a year-long impasse between the special committee and the Defense Ministry forced President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to weigh in on the debate. He issued a statement indicating his administration supported the bill's basic principles.

The proposed bill aims to give soldiers, who have long enjoyed special privileges in the Indonesian legal system, the same legal standing as civilians.

Under the bill, military courts would still preside over trials related to a soldier's military performance, but all other criminal or civil offenses committed by a soldier — such as theft or murder — would be handled by civilian courts, which often hand down tougher sentences than their military counterparts. The drafting of the bill was stalled in June when the Ministry of Defense proposed preserving the power of the Military Police to investigate soldiers who are alleged to have committed civilian crimes.

Andreas said legislators could try to end the standoff.

"We want this bill to be endorsed before the end of our term in April 2009," Andreas said. "The only solution to the deadlock is to bring it to a plenary meeting."

The proposal was rejected by the Indonesian Democracy Party of Struggle and the National Mandate, United Development and People's Awakening parties, while the Reform Star Party abstained.

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