The head of Indonesia’s anti-drug agency says he is hoping to boost police capabilities and wage a war on drug traffickers similar to the controversial work President Rodrigo Duterte has begun in the Philippines, adding that the life of a drug dealer was “meaningless.”
National Narcotics Agency (BNN) Commander General Budi Waseso said at a press conference this week, as Duterte visits the neighboring country, that he is looking to expand the variety of weapons at the disposal of his drug enforcement agents and give them fewer restrictions on when to attack drug suspects, citing Duterte as a positive example of zero-tolerance leadership in the drug war.
“Many threats have challenged our job. Technology has continued to develop and the [drug] mafias also have equipment that manages to avoid our X-ray machines. We should modernize our equipment since our enemies are drug dealers who have different capabilities,” Waseso explained.
Questioned about the potential for the extrajudicial killing of drug suspects, Waseso expressed little concern, calling the life of a drug dealer “meaningless.”
“Let’s say [the drug dealer] has killed 100 people. Which one is more serious: a human rights violation that the BNN commits by executing one drug dealer, or killing 100 people? It’s definitely the latter, so it’s not a problem,” he explained. Unlike the Philippines, Indonesian law provides for the use of the death penalty against convicted drug traffickers. While the Philippines does not provide for this, Duterte has explicitly told both law enforcement officers and civilians not to hesitate in killing drug offenders if they act violently towards them.
Duterte is in Jakarta for a one-on-one visit with President Joko Widodo. He has expressed optimism regarding the two nations’ cooperation in eradicating drug crime. “We share the deep concern over trade in illicit and illegal drugs and its impact on our society. We will seek ways to intensify cooperation and the campaign against this menace. We will do our part in contributing to the aim of a drug-free ASEAN community,” he said in a statement following a private meeting with Widodo.
“I will suppress drugs and in the fullness of God’s time, maybe two years… you can walk about in the Philippines, free of fear of being mugged,” Duterte promised. He also made public that he gave Widodo permission for Indonesian troops to enter Philippine waters in the pursuit of pirates and drug traffickers. In typical Duterte vernacular, he told reporters Indonesian forces “can go ahead and blast them off” if they enter the Philippines. “Blow them up.” “If there are sharks around, then we can just feed them to the sharks,” he joked.
Duterte claimed in Jakarta that, thanks to his police forces cracking down on drug crime, 700,000 suspects have turned themselves in to police, fearing that non-compliance with law enforcement would swiftly lead to death. Duterte has actively targeted both drug users and high-ranking drug traffickers, and especially asked police to target politicians and fellow law enforcement officers with ties to illegal drug activity. In August, Duterte read a list of 150 names of judges, mayors, policemen, and other government officers he said evidence indicated were involved in drug crime. If they did not surrender immediately, Duterte warned, they would be killed.
Shortly after taking office in June, Duterte also encouraged civilians to engage in the drug war, announcing he would set apart leftover campaign funds as a bounty to be handed out to those who capture or kill suspected drug criminals. The proposal attracted negative attention from the United Nations, which accused Duterte of having issued an “apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killings.” In response, Duterte warned that if the UN were to send a human rights observer to the Philippines, “I am going to whack him in the head.”