JAKARTA: Indonesia’s anti-drugs chief has supported implementing a bloody crackdown on traffickers like the war on crime in the Philippines that has left almost 3,000 dead. Budi Waseso, the tough-talking anti-drugs czar who once proposed holding death row traffickers on a prison island guarded by crocodiles, said he believed such a campaign would safeguard “our beloved country”.

Indonesia says it is fighting a war against rising narcotics use. It has stepped up executions of convicted drug traffickers, including foreigners, triggering international outrage. Meanwhile President Rodrigo Duterte of the neighboring Philippines has sparked controversy by overseeing the large-scale killing of drug traffickers since winning election in May.

Duterte is due to visit Jakarta later this week for talks with President Joko Widodo after an Asian summit and the leaders are expected to discuss their respective anti-narcotics campaigns. Ahead of the visit, Waseso suggested Indonesia could follow a policy like that of the Philippines and revealed authorities were bolstering their resources to fight the drug trade. “If such a policy were implemented in Indonesia, we believe that the number of drug traffickers and users in our beloved country would drop drastically,” the anti-drugs agency head said earlier this week. “I would be on the frontline to eradicate all the traffickers.”

In later comments, he said the agency had a major plan to hire more personnel and procure more weapons to better crack down on the drug trade. Agency spokesman Slamet Pribadi sought Wednesday to play down the comments, saying a Philippines-style policy would only be followed “if our law makes it possible”, adding: “We can’t shoot criminals just like that, we have to follow the rules.” But he acknowledged that Waseso was “strict” and had told staff members that “we should not keep our guns in a safe, we must use them-but only for law enforcement”. —AFP