Full Interview: Aceh Police Chief Says Punks Are ‘Abnormal’
Sixty-five punks detained and sent through a 10-day forced “re-education” program at a police camp in Aceh Besar were released on Friday. In an interview with the Jakarta Globe, Insp. Gen. Iskandar Hasan, chief of the Aceh Police, said that despite the controversy and accusations of human-rights violations flying in from around the globe, he was certain that local police and the government were correct to put to a halt what he saw as a “filthy,” unhealthy lifestyle.
Question: How is this case being justified in Aceh?
For the municipal government, what the [punks] did is a violation of Islamic law. They do not deserve to live at Blang Padang Field. In the afternoon and evening they interfere with people who work out there.
The mass detainment occurred during a concert put on by some punk kids that had asked permission from the police with the recommendation of the community assembly. Apparently, the substance of the recommendation had been falsified. They gave false information, listing themselves as an Aceh youth community, while they actually were punk kids.
The concert on Dec. 10 at Taman Budaya [Cultural Park] was disbanded and the punks were taken to the police. Then we had a discussion and because they were also children of the nation, we decided to educate them all together by sending them to the [State Police Academy (SPN) Seulawah, in Aceh Besar].
Q: Was the re-education program financed by the police?
It was financed by the city administration. Our calculations say there were enough funds for 10 days at the SPN.
The [punks] participated in programs such as morning calisthenics, learning about the state and prayer. I visited once and saw them laugh. We treat them well. Not even a pinch. If we are considered to be violating human rights because they are not as free as they are on the street, whose human rights formulation is that? Please judge us. We do not torture them.
Q: They were subjected to forced head-shavings, forced dunkings and held for 10 days without any criminal charges being brought against them. Isn’t that a violation of human rights?
Head-shaving and plunges into the pool are traditions. Every person has a different perception. Proverbially, they get into a ‘washing pool’ so it is not like we drown them. They are just happy because it has been a long time since they have taken a bath.
Now they clean, and we provide them with toothpaste, shampoo and prayer shirts. We ask them to live normally. Their lives have been abnormal and this is one of the police’s responsibilities.
The [punks] have been enthusiastic during their education. They cry a lot [out of regret].
Q: Didn’t one of the youths escape from the academy?
He missed his family. We do not torture them and we are open. We give freedom to the media to see inside the SPN (The Jakarta Globe visited the academy on Thursday night, but the youths were already asleep). Nothing is covered up. We do not violate human rights. Some of them are still 15 and they have a right to attend school. So who is responsible if we are just being quiet?
Q: What will happen after the youths are released on Friday?
Those who want to go to school and ask to go to school will be sent to school. If some of them with ear-piercing holes and other big [piercing] holes have made a request to close the holes, then we will fix it. So, what further human rights one might ask? I have no idea. We intend to help those who want to remove their tattoos, or those who want to build a stencil business or go to college.
Q: If the police are so concerned with punks being dirty, then why don’t the police ever round up the homeless in Aceh as well?
There are no homeless in Aceh, there are only punks. After educating them, then our job is done. If you want the details of what should be done with them afterward, ask the municipal government, though we will be said if they are just left alone.
Punk is not a problem in Aceh alone, but it is also severe problem in other major cities. Incidentally, there is Islamic law in Aceh, so we care more.
Q: Why didn’t you bring the punks to social welfare organizations rather than keeping them under police custody? Why were the police in charge of this program?
Yes, ideally that’s what we would do, but everything happened so suddenly and we were the only ones who were ready. Therefore we recommend to the municipal government that there is a regional law for [punks’] guidance and education.
Q: So after this, will punks on the street be arrested?
Yes, possibly. How dirty would Indonesian society be if it was filled with homeless punks in every corner of the city. We do not have to emulate other dirty countries, but clean states such as Singapore. There are also punks that exist in different classes. They are clean. Not trashy. Trash does not fit the Islamic law. Muslims practice prayer and are meant to be pure, be clean.
Q: So if a punk is clean and diligently prays, he is allowed to a punk?
As long as he is not homeless and does not interfere with other people, why should we ban [punks]? That’s the point. We do not see his label, but his looks. Alhamdullilah [thank God] we got strong support from the community, including 21 Islamic organizations. Although I also received around 50 SMS messages containing profanity and obscenities. We are the servants for society.
Q: If the police really care about the punk community, why is Aceh the only area undertaking these types of measures? Is there a double standard in policing in Indonesia?
Well that is your thought, not mine.