Indonesian President Joko Widodo, following in the bloody footsteps of the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, has issued a “shoot-on-sight” policy for drug suspects. The hardline policy comes amid a sudden media blitz about the drug “state of emergency” in the archipelago nation. Amnesty International says it believes at least 60 drug suspects (including at least eight foreigners) have been killed by Indonesian police so far this year—compared with just 18 in all of 2016.
In late July, Widodo said during a speech in Jakarta: “Be firm, especially to foreign drug dealers who enter the country and resist arrest. Enough, just shoot them. Be merciless.”
Given the massive bloodletting such rhetoric has led to in the Philippines, this sparked outcry from human rights groups.
“This shocking escalation in unlawful killings by the police sounds serious alarm bells,” said Usman Hamid, director of Amnesty International Indonesia. “While Indonesian authorities have a duty to respond to increasing rates of drug use in the country, shooting people on sight is never a solution.”
“It is deeply worrying that foreigners appear to be targeted by the authorities. This could point to a deliberate policy to scapegoat non-Indonesians,” Hamid added.
Right on cue, Budi Waseso, chief of Indonesia’s National Narcotics Agency (BNN), explicitly linked the narco-crackdown to xenophobia, invoking the tried-and-true propaganda strategy of portraying the drug menace as a foreign conspiracy against the nation.
“Indonesia is currently being hit by a proxy war that threatens the nation, lest a drug war breaks out, like the opium war between China and Britain. China was weakened due to the opium supplied by Britain,” he said during a meeting with military and police personnel, Antara News reported on Thursday.
And, also as in the Philippines (and Colombia and Mexico), it looks like the army is about to be sent in against drug dealers (and users). To fight the drug menace, a synergy between the Indonesian Defense Forces and the National Police is necessary, Waseso emphasized.