Aceh is Building Peace from its Ruins
Aceh is Building Peace from its Ruins
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Op-Ed / Asia

Aceh is Building Peace from its Ruins

The sign in the otherwise unremarkable little field on the road into Banda Aceh from the airport gives the visitor an immediate, jolting reminder of the appalling scale of it all: "Here lie buried 46,718 victims of the tsunami of 26 December 2004." With much of the coastal landscape still scarred and desolate, and the number of all those killed and missing enough to fill another three such Aceh graveyards, harrowing human reminders of the tragedy are everywhere.

One such memory will stay with me a long time. The young caretaker of the guesthouse I stayed in a few days ago pulled from his wallet a frayed and faded five-year-old photograph of his wife and two young children. Somehow, after being tumbled through a black, oily onslaught of ocean and debris - strong enough to lift a seagoing freighter and carry it 4 kilometers inland - he and the photo had survived. But his family had not, and that photo was all he had in the world to remember them by.

But I will have happier memories too. That wall of water, which came with the "roar of a hundred bulldozers," as another survivor told me, may have laid waste to Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh Province, and much of the coast. But it also created the conditions for ending a 30-year war. And for all the unprecedented scale of the catastrophe, and death and blighted lives, there is as a result an extraordinary, almost exuberant, optimism in the air in Aceh today.

The insurgency here has been one of Asia's, and indeed the world's, most intractable conflicts. Some say it started in the 19th century, with the fiercely independent Acehnese on the north coast of Sumatra fighting to the end to resist incorporation into the Dutch East Indies. A decade-long rebellion beginning in 1953 cost many more lives.

The Free Aceh Movement, known as GAM, which has been at war with the Indonesian government since 1976, is only the most recent manifestation of Acehnese resistance to central rule. After an intense peace attempt failed in 2003, the government of President Megawati Sukarnoputri mounted a new offensive designed to kill off the resistance once and for all.

But then in early 2005, within a month of the tsunami, GAM and the government of the newly elected president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, were sitting down at a table in Helsinki in talks. By Aug. 15 there was a detailed agreement, setting in motion a peace process that, as of late December, shows every sign of working. Weapons have been handed in, troops have been withdrawn and the rebel army has announced it will disband, saying "guns are no longer the answer." But why peace now, when there have been so many disappointments before?

Multiple factors were clearly in play, as they always are in any complex peace negotiation, and many of them were new:

Yudhoyono was serious about peace, had campaigned on that platform, and was willing - as none of his predecessors had been - to offer serious political participation to GAM in exchange for it settling for an autonomous rather than fully independent Aceh.

Both Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla were willing to take risks and to put their personal credibility on the line to reach a solution. Kalla had been working behind the scenes to open dialogue with GAM since early 2004.

The former Finnish president and UN peacemaker Martti Ahtissari was a fully empowered mediator, not a mere "facilitator" like his hapless predecessors, and one both highly skilled and splendidly intolerant of nonsense.

The agreement set quantifiable standards of success: GAM, for example, was to turn in 840 weapons, and the Indonesian government would withdraw all but 14,700 security personnel.

A European Union-led international monitoring mission had more authority to resolve disputes and was seen as more neutral, professional and generally effective than its counterpart in the failed 2003 agreement.

A further important underlying consideration was that, by the time of the tsunami, the government's military operations had unquestionably sapped GAM's strength, and many guerrillas were looking for an exit strategy: "They had lost so many people, with so little to show for it," one sympathizer told me frankly.

But what clearly made the biggest difference of all, as everyone I spoke to acknowledged, was the tsunami itself.

For a start, it changed the political dynamics: It became in everyone's interest to smooth the way for relief and reconstruction. The sheer scale of the disaster made Indonesia receptive to international assistance, and donors applied their own pressure, making it clear that continued hostilities would hinder the relief effort.

But above all the tsunami changed the psychological dynamics. The unimaginable losses showed both sides that there were more urgent things to do than fight. Skeptics who saw the likelihood of one side or the other reneging on the peace have so far proved very wide of the mark.

None of this is to suggest that, God forbid, an appalling natural disaster is a necessary condition for a successful peace process. Other factors have to be in play as well, as they were in Aceh but not on any similar scale in Sri Lanka, where the tsunami also had a devastating impact but the long-running civil war seems no closer to resolution.

There are still some major hurdles ahead in Aceh, and the sustainability of this peace is not yet absolutely guaranteed. Reintegration will be a long, slow process, and the demobilized fighters need jobs. Getting GAM involved in the political process depends on the passage of a new law that may face opposition in the Indonesian Parliament.

Distrust of GAM was still palpable among the Indonesian military officers I talked to, and there is worry among GAM supporters about what happens when international monitors leave. There are already frictions within the GAM leadership, and for the peace process to succeed, it is crucial that it stay united.

But at every stage of this process, the parties have found a way around problems, because the will for peace is now overwhelming among the people themselves. Maybe Dwight Eisenhower put it best, back in 1959. Sometimes, he said, "people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it."

Op-Ed / Asia

Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force

My four year-old daughter recently came home from her Jakarta kindergarten with a story about a visit to the school from the head of our local police station. 'If there is a robber and he's running away, the policeman will pull out his gun, fire in the air, and if he doesn't stop then he will shoot him in the leg', she recounted breathlessly.

I have spent 25 years working in and around conflict zones, including more than a decade in Indonesia. My reaction might not have been that of the average parent. 'That', I replied, 'is a violation of Perkap Number 8.' Needless to say, my reference to Police Regulation Number 8 of 2009 regarding Implementation of Human Rights Principles and Standards in the Discharge of Duties of the Indonesian National Police was lost on her. She thought the visit was great.

I had recalled Perkap 8 when re-reading the Hansard of the recent sparring between Australian Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr and Victoria Greens Senator Richard Di Natale over the police shooting of protesters in Papua. But it is not just in Papua where questionable use of deadly force by the Indonesian National Police (INP) takes place. It happens across the country. And this was what Perkap 8 was put in place to prevent.

Article 47 of Perkap 8 says that 'the use of firearms shall be allowed only if strictly necessary to preserve human life' and 'firearms may only be used by officers: a. when facing extraordinary circumstances; b. for self defense against threat of death and/or serious injury; c. for the defense of others against threat of death and/or serious injury.' This is Indonesian law, taken from the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, and this is what should be used to assess police actions, wherever in the country they occur.

The fatal shooting on 14 June 2012 of Mako Tabuni, deputy head of the National Committee of West Papua (KNPB), in Jayapura, capital of Papua province, made Senate Estimates in 2012. The shooting of three protesters in Sorong on 30 April 2013, West Papua province, was mentioned in the testy 5 June 2013 exchanges between Senators Carr and Di Natale. You can watch it above.

In the first incident, detectives shot a suspect in the leg as he was running away and then left him to die in a hospital allegedly without making any effort to treat his wounds. In the second, police claim they were threatened by armed KNPB activists. Without more information it is difficult to judge if their response was disproportionate. Police always say they are shooting in self-defense, but it has become such a common excuse that it has started to lose its plausibility.

Cases outside Papua do not garner much attention in Australia, but lethal shootings happen all the time. On 1 September 2011 seven villagers were killed during a rowdy protest against police brutality in the Central Sulawesi district of Buol, a place so obscure even most Indonesians cannot find it on a map.

On 7 March 2013, soldiers burned down a police station in Baturaja, South Sumatra, after their off-duty comrade, First Private Heru Oktavianus, was shot dead by a police officer while speeding away from a traffic violation.

On 8 May 2013 police in Java killed six suspected terrorists in a series of raids. The police usually claim the suspects were armed and resisted arrest. But it is not always true, and many could have almost certainly been captured alive.

Ordinary criminals are shot with distressing frequency, as my daughter's visitor suggests, without any outcry at home or abroad.

Perkap 8 was signed by the then police chief Sutanto, a real reformer. It has not gotten very far. One foreign police officer working on a bilateral community policing program in a large metropolitan command told me he had once seen a copy of the Perkap on the chief's desk but suspected it had been disseminated no further.

Even when progressive regulations or orders are issued and disseminated, they are not always followed. In October 2012, the police chief of Papua, Tito Karnavian, former head of the anti-terrorism unit Detachment 88 (Densus 88), announced that he had banned police from using live ammunition when handling demonstrations in the region. This was progress and it was implemented for some demos, but the deaths in the Sorong case suggest live ammunition was used.

As Article 46 of Perkap 8 says, 'all officers must be trained in the use of power, equipment and firearms that can be used in applying force' and 'must be trained in non-violent techniques and methods.' Training almost 400,000 officers across 33 provinces is a logistical challenge, though it might be a good idea to start with elite units such as Densus 88 or personnel in the Papua provinces.

The new national head of the INP, about to be appointed, might breathe new life into two reforms already in place: implementation of Perkap 8 and Chief Sutanto's other landmark regulation on community policing, Perkap 7. The INP is a very hierarchical organisation that does follow firm orders from above. While its size makes complex reform difficult, its hierarchical nature makes implementing existing regulations with firm orders easier.

The first duty of the incoming INP chief, who reports directly to the president, will be to secure the 2014 elections. Making sure those deployed to safeguard this 'festival of democracy' are properly trained and equipped to use non-lethal force will be an important first step. After a new head of state is elected, he or she should consider issuing a directive that would see Perkap 8 properly implemented. The use of less deadly force could even be politically popular in some parts.

Outside help may also be needed, and this is where Australia comes in. A few decades back, the Victorian state police had a problem of using too much deadly force and created Project Beacon to try to rectify it. They changed the way they thought about the problem, overhauled training, and gave officers on the beat new tools, like pepper spray. Foreign assistance along these lines could help the INP improve performance and increase accountability. Crisis Group has long argued that the INP needs better orders, training, and equipment for the use of non-deadly force.

If the INP is to be more the service it aspires to be rather than the force it is, it needs to shed its military mindset, hold serious post-operation reviews after each fatal incident, and decrease reliance on shooting first and asking questions later, regardless of whether officers are following locally accepted standard procedure. When the time comes and the INP is ready to carry forward the reform of Perkap 8, Australia should be there to help.

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