Jakarta - General Sutanto, who was sworn in as Indonesia's new National Police Chief on July 8, came into office with impressive credentials. He has a reputation for being "Mr Clean" and has solid political connections: Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is his old friend. The big question is this: Can he succeed where his predecessor, General Da'i Bachtiar, had failed?
Gen Da’i, who is perceived to be close to former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, had been criticised for his failure to capture Indonesia's two most-wanted terror suspects, Azahari Husin and Noordin M Top. The duo have been accused of masterminding several bomb incidents, including the 2002 Bali bombings. The police force also continues to be dogged by allegations of graft and power abuse.
Some analysts have expressed hope that Gen Sutanto would bring his leadership and his perceived integrity to improve the image of the force.
Mr M Aqil Muchtar, the deputy chairman of Commission III, which oversees legal matters and law enforcement in Parliament, said: "He is one of the most important figures in the National Police, he has a clean track record, he is low profile and he has proven to be a good manager based on his successes in previous posts."
During the swearing-in ceremony, President Yudhoyono told Gen Sutanto, a former head of the National Narcotics Agency, to focus on several tasks: Corruption, illegal logging, drugs, gambling, street crime and transnational crimes such as terrorism.
In a sign that he means business, Gen Sutanto, 55, has given all provincial police heads one week to stop all forms of gambling in their areas. A police spokesman said on July 11: "The police chief will take action from warning provincial police heads to replacing them if they ignore the order."
In an editorial, Media Indonesia said Gen Sutanto's "Mr Clean" reputation had raised high expectations among the public that he could rid the police force of its many ills.
"However, such expectations can easily turn into frustration if Sutanto fails to fulfill such high hopes," it warned. To avoid this, the editorial suggests that as a start, Gen Sutanto should identify one or two key tasks in reforming the police force and work towards fulfilling them.
* Sutanto orders provincial police heads to combat gambling (Antara, July 11)
* Susilo tells Sutanto to fight graft, get tough on terrorism (The Jakarta Post, July 9)
* Yudhoyono’s old friend set to become new police chief (The Straits Times, July 5)
* Sutanto and police (Media Indonesia, July 8)