Indonesia's parliament has approved the appointment of Listyo Sigit Prabowo, a Protestant, as the new national police chief. (Photo courtesy of polri.go.id)
Indonesia has named a Christian as the new national police chief, the third person from the religious minority to hold the post in the Muslim-majority nation.
Commissioner General Listyo Sigit Prabowo, a Protestant, was the only nominee and was approved by parliament on Jan. 20,
The new chief, who heads the National Police's Criminal Investigation Agency and is a close ally of Indonesian President Joko Widodo, will replace General Idham Azis, who recently retired.
Listyo said he would try to ensure the police force was more transparent and would step up efforts to deal with serious problems, including intolerance and radicalism.
His appointment comes after a leading figure in the Indonesian Ulema Council, the country’s top Islamic clerical body, sparked controversy by saying the new police chief must be Muslim.
Father Paulus Christian Siswantoko, executive secretary of the Indonesian bishops' Commission for the Laity, said that by appointing a new chief from a minority religion Widodo wanted to show that any Indonesian citizen has an equal right to become a leader.
"This is an affirmation that this nation chooses leaders not based on religion, not based on a minority or majority, but based on achievement, track record and vision," he told UCA News.
He also hoped Listyo would enforce the law fairly for all people without discrimination.
"The impression that the law is blunt upward and sharp downward must change," he said, referring to a public perception that the law is implemented more harshly against the poor.
He also hoped Listyo can help strengthen ties among many elements of society, including religious leaders.
Activist Rivanlee Anandar, from the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence, called for the new chief to protect human rights and for police not to violate them.
"The new chief will have to start by making improvements in understanding and protecting human rights within the police," he said.
"Excessive violence in handling mass actions must stop immediately. He must also be able to deal with officers who commit violations under the guise of use of force."
Police brutality is a criticism often cited by human rights organizations.
According to the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, the police were involved in 75 percent of land conflicts and the confiscation of people's land in 2019-20.
It also said that in 2019 there were 1,847 victims from 160 cases of arbitrary arrest, an increase from 88 cases with 1,144 victims in 2018.