Aceh: How Not to Win Hearts and Minds
Aceh: How Not to Win Hearts and Minds
Table of Contents
  1. Overview
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Briefing 27 / Asia

Aceh: How Not to Win Hearts and Minds

In April 2001, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister of Security and Political Affairs, gave a long interview on Aceh to Media Indonesia, a Jakarta newspaper. The interview appeared just after a presidential instruction had been issued authorising military action as part of a comprehensive strategy to address the Aceh problem.

In April 2001, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister of Security and Political Affairs, gave a long interview on Aceh to Media Indonesia, a Jakarta newspaper. The interview appeared just after a presidential instruction had been issued authorising military action as part of a comprehensive strategy to address the Aceh problem. Yudhoyono stressed that social discontent was at the heart of any insurgency and that winning hearts and minds of the local population was the primary goal of a counterinsurgency strategy, so as to reduce local support for the separatists.[fn]Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, “Aceh Perlu Keadilan Kesejahteraan dan Keamanan”, Wawancara  Dengan Menko Polsoskam Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono Seputar Kebijakan Komprehensif Penyelesaian Masalah Aceh, Jakarta, April 2001, p. 30.Hide Footnote “Our brothers and  sisters in Aceh want respect, justice, and prosperity”, he said.[fn]Ibid, p. 4.Hide Footnote

Those words are worth reviewing as Aceh prepares to endure the third month of a planned six-month military emergency declared by  President Megawati  Soekarnoputri  at  midnight  on  18 May 2003.[fn]The   official   name   of   the   decree   authorising     the
emergency is “Presidential Decision No. 28/2003 on the Declaration of a Dangerous Situation and the Imposition of a Military Emergency in the Province of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam”. For background, see ICG Asia Report No.  47, Aceh: A Fragile Peace, 27 February 2003, and ICG Indonesia Briefing Paper, Aceh: Why the Military Option Still Won’t Work, 9 May 2003.
 Hide Footnote
 The government appears to have no clear objectives  in  this  war,  no  criteria  for   “success” other than control of territory and body counts, and no exit strategy.

Despite the strict controls exercised by the army (TNI) over information – the government has drastically limited access to the province, 

particularly by foreigners[fn]Presidential Decision No. 43/2003 forbids foreign tourists from going to Aceh and requires all other foreigners to get permission from the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights to travel there. Any activities by Indonesian or foreign NGOs that might run counter to the aims of the martial law administration are banned. All humanitarian assistance must be coordinated by the Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare. The decision also imposes major new restrictions on the press.Hide Footnote – the message coming through clearly is that far from winning hearts and minds, Jakarta is managing to alienate Acehnese even further. Virtually everything it is doing now – forced participation in mass loyalty oaths, forced displacement of villagers, arrests not just of GAM fighters but of people branded “GAM sympathisers”, and background checks on civil servants – are tactics used before, to disastrous effect. They do not help end separatism: they generate more support for it.[fn]All these tactics were used during an earlier counterinsurgency period known as DOM (short for    Daerah
Operasi Militer). The DOM period officially lasted from May 1990 to August 1998 but was most intense from 1990 to 1992. The military was responding then to a genuine security threat but its response was so excessive that a newly resuscitated GAM emerging in the aftermath of Soeharto’s fall was able to tap into local resentment to mobilise widespread support. The present emergency is part of an "Integrated Operation" that also includes humanitarian, law enforcement, and governance components.Hide Footnote

The gravity of the security threat posed by GAM is not at issue. This is a guerrilla group that in  addition to routine ambushes of Indonesian military and police has engaged in targeted assassinations, hostage-taking,  arson,  and  extortion.[fn]

It is still an unanswered question as to which side is responsible for the burning of more than 500 schools across Aceh since the military emergency began. It is clear, from ICG interviews, that GAM members were responsible for some. The alleged motivation may have been to prevent the schools from being used as billets for troops, to prevent them from housing the displaced so that the humanitarian problem would get more international attention, or to  ensure that they were not used to turn Acehnese children into  Indonesians.  But  most  Acehnese  with  whom   ICG spoke expressed scepticism that so many schools  could have been burned so quickly without some level of complicity on the part of government forces.


 Hide Footnote One NGO source told ICG just before the military emergency began that if the government had avoided a military response to the collapse of the 9 December 2002 cessation of hostilities agreement, it might have been able to take advantage of growing disaffection with GAM, even in some insurgent strongholds. With the tactics being used now, support for GAM in these areas could return. 

In the process, the notion of “special autonomy” for Aceh has been completely undermined. Not only is policy over everything – security, social welfare, governance – now directed from Jakarta, but also the additional revenue that Aceh was to receive from the autonomy legislation is being ploughed directly back into military operations.[fn]The deeply flawed Law No.18 from 2001 that granted
autonomy to the province of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam has been wholly superseded by the military emergency. Perhaps the legislators in Jakarta who drafted that law  could actually turn that fact to advantage and plan a post- emergency consultation process with stakeholders in  Aceh
that could lead to an amended law with far greater legitimacy than the current one.Hide Footnote

While international criticism of the conduct of military operations is mounting, domestic criticism remains muted. This reflects the current  nationalistic mood that has led to popular support for a tough stance against threats to the country’s unity, as well as the control over information and the political manoeuvring taking place in the lead- up to the 2004 elections.[fn]In early July 2003, ICG asked a member of parliament from Golkar, the  former  ruling  party  that constitutes  the
major opposition to President Megawati’s Indonesian Democratic Struggle Party, why no one in his party had raised questions about the government’s Aceh strategy. “We have to wait until the Supreme Court rules on our chairman’s case”, he said. The chairman and presidential aspirant, Akbar Tanjung, has been convicted of corruption and is awaiting the outcome of an appeal to the Supreme Court. An acquittal would almost certainly be less on the legal merits of the case than the result of a political deal with Megawati’s party. If senior Golkar figures speak out against Aceh policy now, any Supreme Court deal could be jeopardised.
 Hide Footnote

All this means that the chances of returning to negotiations any time soon are slim. The military is determined to finish off the rebels, once and for all, and any non-military solutions have been put on hold.

Jakarta/Brussels, 23 July 2003

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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