More signs of all-out war against drug abuse

More signs of all-out war against drug abuse

Officers destroy evidence in the case of drugs at the State Attorney 's office in Makassar, South Sulawesi, on Thursday (March 10, 2016). (ANTARA/Abriawan Abhe)

The president is determined to upgrade the status of BNN. The drug problem is so huge."
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The governments plan to upgrade the National Narcotics Agencys (BNNs) status is an indication of its all-out efforts to fight narcotics abuse in the country.

"The president is determined to upgrade the status of BNN. The drug problem is so huge. The BNN should deal with it," Coordinating Minister for Politics, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Binsar Panjaitan stated on Thursday (March 10).

President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) is committed to upgrading the status of BNN to a ministerial-level body due to the urgency to rage a battle against drug trade.

Indonesia, with a population of some 250 million, has become one of the targets of drug lords to market their narcotics. Poverty enclaves in the country are the main hubs, turning poor people into addicts and traffickers.

According to BNNs data, the prevalence of drug addicts in Indonesia continues to reflect an upward trend. In 2008, the number of drug addicts was pegged at 3.3 million. It rose to four million in 2011, and in 2015, it was expected to touch 5.1 million.

In a limited cabinet meeting on September 21, 2015, President Jokowi reminded that Indonesia was now facing three major challenges: drug abuse, illegal fishing, and terrorism.

"We are now entering a state of drug emergency that has to be dealt with seriously," the president emphasized.

Jokowi had earlier stated that an average of 50 deaths occurred every day due to narcotics abuse, which meant some 18 thousand victims died due to drug addiction in a year.

The president also spoke of the extent of drug abuse in neighboring countries when early last year, Indonesia was to execute 11 drug convicts, including foreigners.

"I explained this to the other heads of state as well, after the recent execution of drug convicts sentenced to death. I explained this to the presidents and prime ministers who contacted me seeking clemency (for convicts from their respective countries). They should know that as many as 50 people die every day due to drug addiction. This figure does not include the 4.2 to 4.5 million others who are undergoing rehabilitation," Jokowi pointed out.

In addition, there are 1.2 million addicts who cannot be rehabilitated due to various reasons.

Therefore, the government is determined to wage an all-out battle to fight drug abuse. The BNNs status will therefore be upgraded, so that it could act indiscriminately against all violators, including errant state officials or even individual security personnel.

In this case, Henry Yosodiningrat, chairman of the Anti-Narcotic National Movement (Granat), urged the BNN to not hesitate to investigate state officials or regional heads who are allegedly involved in committing narcotics crimes.

"I am not surprised that the BNN has arrested Ahmad Wazir Noviadi Marwardi, head of Ogan Ilir District, South Sumatra Province, over an alleged drug case," Henry stated in Bandar Lampung on Tuesday (March 15). The BNN office for South Sumatra arrested A.W. Noviadi Marwardi on March 14, 2014.

Hence, BNNs status will be upgraded in a bid to step up the fight against drug trafficking in the country.

According to Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said, the BNN will soon have the same status as the National Counterterrorism Board (BNPT).

"I think the BNN will soon have the same status as BNPT. Hopefully, a presidential regulation to that effect will be signed next week. Last night, the president informed me about it," he said after attending a meeting in Surabaya, East Java, on Wednesday (March 16).

With the change in status, the BNN chief will be directly responsible to the president and will coordinate with the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs in performing his duties, he said.

Luhut had earlier said President Joko Widodo is determined to upgrade the BNNs status to the level of a ministry to demonstrate the governments seriousness in combating drug abuse which has reached alarming levels in the country.

Legislators warmly welcome the government plan to raise the status of the BNN. "I agree that the problem of narcotics is important and needs to be handled seriously. The BNN should be reinforced, both in terms of institution and personnel," Deputy House Speaker Hadli Zon said Tuesday (March 15).

However, h said that a careful study is needed as the main task and function of the BNN should first be made clear so no overlapping of authority will happens, as that could be counterproductive at a time when efforts are being made to eliminate narcotics abuse.

"Before upgrading the BNNs status, the government should first look at Law No. 39/2008 on state ministries and at other relevant regulations," he said.

Fadli Zon, who is a politician of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), said he understands that the proposal for upgrading the BNNs status reflected the governments and the nations strong wish to wage war against abuse of narcotics.

According to Fadli, the most urgent step is to ensure that the war against narcotics is effective and has a broad scope. If one of the ways to reach the goal is to increase the budget, personnel and facilities, there is no reason not to do so.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla said the National Narcotics Agency needs more authority to eradicate narcotic drugs and, therefore, its status must be upgraded.

"We think the danger of narcotic drug abuse has become so alarming and has been affecting people of all strata and ages. Hence, the authority of the BNN needs to be enhanced," he said at his office here on Friday.

With greater authority, the BNN would be able to tackle, act against and bring those abusing drugs to justice as per the laws.

In response to this change in status, BNN Chief Commissioner General Budi Waseso observed that it will make the agencys task even more formidable as the drug threat was serious.

"Indonesia has a population of 250 million, of whom 125 million are in their productive age and we must save them from the danger of drugs, while the BNN has only 4,400 personnel nationwide," he said.