Communal Tension a Prime Security Threat
Communal Tension a Prime Security Threat
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Op-Ed / Asia

Communal Tension a Prime Security Threat

The security outlook for Indonesia in 2008 is reasonably good. The biggest danger lies not in terrorism, separatism, election disputes, or any external threat, but in poorly managed communal tensions that have the potential to fray this country's social fabric.

The fact that the climate change conference could be held for two weeks in Bali at the time of year that used to be called "bombing season" is an indication of how far fears of terrorism have fallen. The likelihood of another attack along the lines of Bali I or II in the new year is low.

Most extremist groups here have concluded that indiscriminate attacks on civilians are counterproductive, but they have not given up on local targets, even if their capacity to go after them is weak.

The execution of the three Bali bombers is likely to generate anger, and in a statement posted on the Internet in mid-December, Mukhlas exhorted his followers to show their support by turning out in massive numbers for his burial. If there were to be retaliation for the executions, it likely would be against Indonesian government installations or personnel, but careful security arrangements should be able to prevent any incident.

(Despite the court decision earlier this year upholding the constitutionality of the death penalty, the Indonesian parliament would do well to abolish it. Quite apart from the human rights arguments against capital punishment, its politicized use in this country too often serves to fuel rather than ease social tensions.)

The weakness of salafi jihadi groups at the moment does not mean that they are on a slow steady path to eradication. On the contrary, Jamaah Islamiyah is trying to sterilize and consolidate its ranks; various Darul Islam groups are reaching out to disgruntled members of other organizations; and new groups are emerging and recruiting members, particularly in Java.

The government needs to be thinking not just about how to "deradicalize" about-to-be-released prisoners but how to provide options other than jihadi career paths to children in vulnerable areas who are now in their early teens.

Separatism has not gone away but neither is it a threat to Indonesian stability. The conflict in Aceh is no longer military but political, over how much authority Jakarta will cede. There are security problems in the province, some of them linked to the problems of poorly administered reintegration funding, but they do not appear to have the potential to trigger renewed fighting. In that sense, the peace is secure. Local politics will heat up before the 2009 elections, but isolated incidents of violence are not likely to spread.

In Maluku, there will always be a small group of RMS (Republic of the South Moluccas) supporters who raise their flag on April 25 in Haruku and other traditional strongholds, but Jakarta's fear of separatism there is overblown -- the spectacle of pro-RMS dancers breaching presidential security in Ambon earlier this year notwithstanding. Hostility between the TNI and police in Maluku (and elsewhere) is a greater danger to the population than anything the RMS could dream up.

Papua will remain a problem in 2008, but the danger will not come from the OPM or outside agitators. It will continue to be from the cumulative impact of years of neglect of basic social services, unprosecuted past human rights violations, rapacious security forces and uncontrolled migration from elsewhere in Indonesia, with a divisive and unnecessary process of pemekaran -- administrative fragmentation -- further roiling the waters. Governor Bas Suebu and his overstretched advisers are doing their best to move forward, but the obstacles they face are enormous.

The Yudhoyono government is not helping matters by restricting access of journalists and NGOs. The stories that come out of the interior will not be pretty, but they could expose some of the sources of Papuan resentment that in turn could lead to better policy-making.

Authorities at all levels of government need to understand the social, political and environmental risks that palm oil investment can bring; they should use 2008 to undertake a thorough analysis of the social costs thus far of the Sinar Mas enterprise, now scheduled for major expansion.

Poso is a place to watch in 2008. Largely calm since police operations in January 2007, it remains a place where unresolved grievances could still come to the surface and, like Aceh and Papua, where poorly monitored funds thrown at a problem can create as many tensions as they solve.

Corruption of humanitarian funds has been a huge issue in Poso; with additional funding given to prisoners and ex-prisoners involved in the conflict with no clear criteria for how recipients are selected and no accounting for the funds, the likelihood of new resentments is high.

As far as 2008 local elections go, one that may carry a risk of trouble is the East Java governor's race, where the impact of the LAPINDO mudflow disaster will be an issue. But in general, outbreaks of election-related violence have been easily localized and there is no reason to believe the East Java race will be any different.

Likewise, while the maneuvering for the national 2009 elections may bring an increase in rent-a-mob demonstrations, using various economic grievances as a theme, there is nothing on the horizon that suggests a potential for the phenomenon Indonesia most dreads, urban riots.

That leaves one big unresolved issue facing the country in 2008: Communal tensions. Protecting minority rights may be the government's biggest security challenge, and there are various ways in which its neglect of this fundamental function is undermining the national slogan, "unity in diversity".

Attacks by local Muslim vigilante groups on "illegal" churches, the beleaguered Ahmadiyah community and "deviant" sects picked up in 2007 and are likely to continue in 2008. Police have made few arrests in the face of mob action on the part of groups like the Anti-Apostasy Alliance (AGAP) in West Java.

Not only did the Yudhoyono government make no serious effort to punish the attackers or stress the importance of freedom of religion, but instead it endorsed the views of the conservative Indonesian Ulama Council (Majelis Ulama Indonesia, MUI) that such religious groups themselves are a greater threat than their attackers because they provoke community hostility.

It is not clear why religious vigilantism has been such a problem in West Java -- one theory is that aggressive Protestant evangelicalism there has made inroads in strongly Muslim communities, creating fears of "Christianization"-- but Muslims considered "deviant" have been victims almost as often.

The problem is that the success of vigilantes at a local level has national implications and can encourage similar attacks in Lombok, where the persecution of Ahmadis has been unremitting, or West Sulawesi, where the risk of local political conflict taking on a communal dimension remains high.

Once communal tensions are inflamed, they can be exacerbated by local power struggles. (That said, since direct local elections were instituted in 2005, Indonesian voters consistently have rejected extremist candidates.)

The government has also failed to roll back local regulations that discriminate against non-Muslims, when it has a clear legal mandate to do so, under both the Indonesian constitution and the decentralization laws that left religion as the responsibility of the central government. The result is a palpable sense among many non-Muslims, in North Sulawesi, Bali, Papua and elsewhere, that they are becoming second-class citizens in their own country.

In Manokwari in early 2007, that sense was one factor leading the local district council to propose, in an equally reprehensible move, that the city be designated a "Christian city" with some restrictions on other faiths. The proposal was not adopted but it led to efforts by some hardline Muslim groups to scope out the possibility for stirring up communal conflict there, and the story is not over.

Playing religious favorites or tacitly endorsing one version of the truth is a dangerous game in a country as diverse as Indonesia. Unless Jakarta takes a tougher stance against vigilantes and in favor of religious freedom and minority rights, internal security problems are likely to increase.

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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