How 'peace provocateurs' are defusing religious tensions in Indonesia
How 'peace provocateurs' are defusing religious tensions in Indonesia
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Op-Ed / Asia

How 'peace provocateurs' are defusing religious tensions in Indonesia

A Christian girl has her arm hacked off in a Muslim neighbourhood, and everyone in this tropical island city expects more trouble to follow.

Text messages multiply the news and calls for revenge exponentially in segregated Ambon, Indonesia, steamy with suspicion between the two communities ever since inter-communal violence in 1999-2002 left thousands dead and many more displaced, torched out of their homes.

But within an hour, a second round of texts spreads, along with Tweets and Facebook posts, bursting the expanding bubble of anger. It didn’t happen. The girl is fine and at home with family. Look, here’s a fresh  photo of her. And here’s a video with her made a few minutes ago.

The klarifikasi message is signed, “Provakator Perdamaian”, or “Peace  Provocateurs”.

An interfaith group with no formal structure, the Peace Provocateurs are as ambitious in their goal as they are simple in their method. After watching some in Ambon use SMS and social media to whip up fights, exaggerating or simply inventing incidents to spark trouble, they decided they could respond in kind with reverse intent.

“If provocateurs could use the new technology to incite violence, we could use it to undermine their incitement”, says Jacky Manuputty, a  Protestant minister and one of the leaders of the group.

The movement emerged organically in September, when the suspicious death of a Muslim motorcycle taxi driver in a Christian area led to attacks, counter-attacks and fears of a repeat of the mass killings of a decade ago. A diverse network of students, lecturers, religious  leaders, activist journalists and others who had strong connections  across the religious divide contacted each other after the electronic rumour mill started churning, and they realised what they could do.

Manuputty and others were able to dispatch volunteers to any location in a matter of minutes to check the credibility of disturbing claims. They then sent the facts to the leadership, who double checked the details with other witnesses and crafted SMS messages to set the record straight before preparations for revenge attacks could pick up steam. SMS is king here, and while Facebook and Twitter are also employed (the latter being critical in reaching the local media), text messages spread news most quickly through both communities.

Given the weak response by the government and the general incompetence of the police, many credit the Peace Provocateurs with having played a critical role in keeping the violence relatively contained in  September.

The network has been active ever since and has expanded its work, too, even posting volunteers in the streets to address flare-ups directly. They also send texts and Tweets in the calm times about cross-community events and distribute photos of normality, like a Muslim trader in a predominantly Christian area, to demonstrate and reinforce the fact that the vast majority of people here can get along and have no interest in the violence some are trying to stir up.

Of course, it is an uphill climb to ease lasting suspicions. Ambon remains a tense place, and even a small spark could set off the stacks of accumulated dry tinder here. Two potential flashpoints in the coming months -- the anniversary of a defunct separatist movement in April and a Qur’an recital contest in June -- offer opportunities for those who want to cause trouble.

“But it’s not the big, predictable events we have to worry about most”, says Bishop Mandagi, an outspoken leader playing an active role in trying to bring the communities together. “It’s the ordinary days, when the security services will be off guard, and a small incident could blow up quickly.”

As a network ready to respond at a moment’s notice, the Peace Provacateurs address exactly this concern. The costs are incredibly low as well -- individuals pay their taxi fares and phone bills -- and the group is not seeking national or international funding to run this project.

“Outside money could create competing incentives”, says Abidin Wakano, a lecturer at the State Islamic Institute and another key leader of the movement. “We all want to see our island avoid a return to mass  violence. That’s motivation enough for us.”
 

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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