Fingerprint plan 'not just for pesantren students'

Updated On: Dec 13, 2005

Jakarta - Just days after news of a police plan to fingerprint all students of Islamic boarding schools (pesantrens) drew much criticism, the authorities have now declared that the plan is actually meant for all  Indonesian citizens. The aim is to create a national database for the fingerprints of all adults in the country.

     National Police chief General Sutanto said on Dec 9 that the fingerprinting would be conducted through a Single Identification Number (SIN) system, in which citizens would only be able to have one identification card and passport.
     All the fingerprints will be kept in a single database for easy access by police and security officials. There is, at present, no database with the fingerprints of all Indonesians, although citizens are required to be fingerprinted when they apply for their ID cards, passports and driver's licences.  
     Gen Stanton said the database is necessary to prevent people from obtaining more than one identity card or passport, thus increasing the risks of illegal residents and making it easier for terrorists to launch attacks. 
     "It will reduce the time it takes for police to identify victims of accidents and crimes as well the perpetrators of crimes if we have the dates," he said.
     In the aftermath of the Oct 1 Bali bombings, which killed 20 people, the police took two months to identify the victims from their severed heads. 
     The police chief's announcement came in the wake of a controversy over news that only the country's 3.5 million pesantren students would be fingerprinted. Critics say that singling out Islamic students for fingerprinting would stigmatise them as it would be seen as making the pesantrens the focus of the war on terrorism. 
     Mr Hasyim Muzadi, leader of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the country's largest Islamic organisation, urged Muslim clerics to oppose any plan to fingerprint their students. He said in waging the war on terror, the government should involve pesantrens instead of placing them under suspicion.  
     Gen Sutanto denied that it was the police who came up with the idea to fingerprint pesantren students – a plan supported by Vice-President Jusuf Kalla himself. "The idea originally came from several clerics in Cimahi, West Java, and they talked to police about their suggestion,"  Gen Sutanto said.

* Govt plans to fingerprint all citizens (The Jakarta Post, Dec 10)

* Single fingerprint database for Jakarta (The Straits Times, Dec 11)