Rizki Fachriansyah, Jakarta – Jaringan Gusdurian, an NGO endorsing the ideas and values of late President Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, has spoken out against the recent arrest of a North Maluku resident for having posted a Gus Dur quote on social media that local police claim cast an unflattering light on the force.
The group's coordinator and Gus Dur's eldest daughter, Alissa Wahid, said the quote in question was a humorous expression of her late father's concern regarding a string of major graft cases that involved numerous institutions in 2008, including the National Police.
Gus Dur remarked in jest that there were only three honest police officers: "police statues, sleeping policemen [speed bumps] and Hoegeng". 'Hoegeng' refers to Hoegeng Iman Santoso, chief of the National Police during late presidents Sukarno and Soeharto.
She said the quote was among her late father's best-known quips.
"The humorous [remark] is both satire and criticism, so that the police would work better," Alissa said in a statement on Wednesday.
"Treating humor as 'evidence' in a perceived case over institutional reputation is a failure in recognizing Indonesians' humorous nature."
In response to the controversy, Alissa posted on her official Twitter account a quote from Home Affairs Minister Tito Karnavian – who formerly served as National Police chief – that referenced Gus Dur's famous remark.
She referred to Tito as a "role model" for police leadership in the tweet.
Pak Polisi, ada teladan nih dari pemimpin anda semua, mantan Kapolri Jendral Polisi Tito Karnavian, sekarang Menteri Dalam Negeri. #IndonesiaDaruratHumor pic.twitter.com/vNGh1CdYqT – Alissa Wahid (@AlissaWahid) June 17, 2020
"[Gus Dur]'s statement [inspired] the National Police to grow into a better institution," Tito said during his speech on Gus Dur's death anniversary in 2017.
Ismail Ahmad, a 41-year-old resident of Sula Islands regency in North Maluku, was arrested and detained by local police for having posted the well-known Gus Dur quote on Facebook last Friday, Tempo.co reported.
Ismail claimed he had come across the quote on the internet and found it amusing.
However, local police took offense at Ismail's post and regarded it as an attempt to smear the reputation of the National Police.
Ismail was told that he could be charged under the Electronic Information and Transactions Law (UU ITE), which carries a maximum punishment of four years in prison and Rp 750 million in fines.
Police decided to release Ismail after he publicly apologized for his action.
Ismail's arrest has once again raised concerns over freedom of speech in Indonesia and over misuse of the Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law.
Jaringan Gusdurian condemned the arrest as a form of "state intimidation against the public". The organization conveyed its support for Ismail, while urging the authorities to refrain from intimidating citizens who are merely exercising their constitutional right to free speech.
Furthermore, the organization also called on legislative bodies to revise and/or scrap the ITE Law altogether, claiming that the law "has often been misused to undermine the freedom of speech and expression in Indonesia".
Social media users have since tweeted the Gus Dur quote in support of Ismail and to stand up for free speech.
Di Indonesia ini hanya ada tiga polisi jujur, yakni polisi tidur, patung polisi, dan Hoegeng. (GUS DUR) *Saya mention quote Gus Dur ini sebagai protes terhadap hilangnya kebebasan berekspresi rakyat* https://t.co/qSDyrkdiQu – Don Adam (@DonAdam68) June 17, 2020
"I hereby mention the Gus Dur quote to protest the disappearance of free speech," Twitter user @DonAdam68 wrote.
The police have come under fire amid allegations of extrajudicial moves to silence critics in recent months.
In April, National Police chief Gen. Idham Azis called on his personnel to start cyber patrols to monitor the "the development of the situation and opinion in cyberspace" regarding the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the copy of a classified document obtained by The Jakarta Post.
According to the document, those who spread false information related to government policies in handling the contagious disease could be subject to articles 14 and/or 15 of the Criminal Code, which carry a maximum sentence of 10 years behind bars.
National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Argo Yuwono did not respond to the Post's request for comment on Thursday over streams of criticisms leveled at the force.