Two policemen arrested for people-smuggling
Fabiola Desy Unidjaja
The Jakarta Post
27 October 2001

National Police Chief Gen. Surojo Bimantoro said on Friday that two police brigadiers in Riau had been arrested for illegally helping Middle Eastern boatpeople.

The police are also tracking down another four people they believe are the masterminds behind people-smuggling throughout Indonesia, he said.

"The Riau police chief has told me the two brigadiers were involved (in illegally helping boatpeople)," he told journalists after meeting with President Megawati Soekarnoputri.

He said the two detained police officers had been escorting the illegal migrants and were not part of the syndicate.

Bimantoro rejected survivors' claims that police had forced the mostly Iraqi refugees at gunpoint to board the vessel, which sank in the Java Sea last Friday, killing over 374 of the 418 on board.

The survivors' claims have sparked strong reactions from the Australian government. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has demanded that the Indonesian police investigate the incident.

It had been reported earlier that the boat had sailed from Lampung in South Sumatra, but Lampung police chief Brig. Gen. Sugiri said the boat was likely to have set sail from Karang Bolong, in the western Java province of Banten.

Bimantoro said that, of the four people still at large, two were Indonesian, one Malaysian and one Iraqi. "We need coordination with other countries because it involves foreigners."

Bimantoro said that the arrival of illegal immigrants from Middle Eastern countries in Indonesian territories was arranged by international syndicates.

Indonesia has become a favorite transit point for boatpeople heading for Australia and America, taking advantage of its vast territory and slack coastal supervision.

Earlier this week, the Australia government asked Indonesia to extradite an Egyptian man believed to have arranged last week's disastrous journey of asylum-seekers.

In a related development, four Indonesian people-smugglers have each been jailed for six years in Australia for bringing 231 asylum-seekers to the Australian territory of Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean, in June.

The penalties were imposed on Thursday night by Judge Alton Jackson in the District Court in South Hedland, a coastal town in Western Australia's north-west.

AFP reported that Dahlan, 40, Alimuddin Bin Binggala, 31, Andiman, 33, and Yopi Koto, 21, all from Sulawesi, pleaded guilty to a charge of intent to bring non-citizens to Australia illegally.

In Jakarta, about 100 asylum seekers--mostly from Iraq--demonstrated at the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) offices, demanding better treatment.

A minor incident occurred when security guards blocking their entry to the office scuffled with the protesters. They were asylum seekers accommodated in Bogor, south of Jakarta.

They unfurled posters detailing their demands. One read: "Hurry... hurry help our children are waiting."


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