How Will Partai Aceh Govern?
How Will Partai Aceh Govern?
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Op-Ed / Asia

How Will Partai Aceh Govern?

The extraordinary victory of Partai Aceh (Aceh Party) raises questions about how Aceh will develop in the next five years. Will it grow into an authoritarian one-party enclave in the middle of democratic Indonesia or become a model for the transformation of a guerrilla movement into a responsible political force? 

It is worth looking at why Partai Aceh won by such huge margins: close to 55 per cent overall and more than 70 per cent in the populous districts along the east coast. Intimidation, while significant, cannot explain these numbers.

Acehnese told us repeatedly last week that the election was about peace and security – avoiding any return to conflict and ensuring a sense of personal safety. Partai Aceh leaders successfully portrayed themselves as both the leaders of the guerrilla struggle and the architects of the 2005 peace. They also suggested vaguely, however, that if they weren’t elected, there could be trouble.

Some gave other reasons for choosing the party. Several young intellectuals argued that GAM’s transition from guerrilla group to party was incomplete, and it needed more time to finish the process. If the former rebels lost this time, they might opt out of the political process in a way that would have long-term negative implications for Aceh. 

The most important factor in the vote, however, was almost certainly the party’s ability to mobilise the populace through the Komite Peralihan Aceh or KPA, the post-conflict name for the old guerrilla structure--and here is where some of the problems lie. The KPA is led down to the village level by former commanders, and in many areas it is indistinguishable from the party. 

The KPA has no legal status, but its senior members are often powerful local warlords, grown rich through securing construction contracts and other concessions. As former combatants, they are used to obeying orders from above and securing obedience from below. When a political party is superimposed on this structure, the result has been an often autocratic organisation with little tolerance for dissent.  

In Langsa, we were sitting with a group of NGO leaders discussing the election, when suddenly one lowered his voice and whispered, “Careful, it’s not sterile here.” In the Soeharto days, that used to be the reaction when a suspected military or intelligence agent appeared. This time, it was a local Partai Aceh man who had entered, and our friends were afraid of being overheard; the party is widely believed to have its own network of informers. Several local offices of the election oversight body, Panwas, said it was difficult to follow up reports of Partai Aceh violations because witnesses were afraid to come forward.

If the party is to lead Aceh in a positive direction it needs to disassociate itself from and/or dissolve the KPA, gradually rid itself of military attributes (the party’s paramilitary task force or satgas wears red berets and camouflage uniforms) and recruit new blood on college campuses.  A younger, better educated faction of the party says it is trying to open the party up and make it less exclusive, but it won’t happen overnight.

This raises the question of what Partai Aceh’s political agenda will be going forward, now that it controls both the executive and legislative branches of the provincial government.  While the campaign was devoid of specifics, the party has a detailed platform for preserving the peace, improving government, reducing poverty, and strengthening Achenese culture and values. If the party uses it as a guideline for policies, it could win over some sceptics, although the track record of the party’s legislators is poor.

One party worker said the top legislative priority was the draft regulation on the Wali Nanggroe, an institution agreed on in Helsinki as a ceremonial position for the late Hasan di Tiro. Malek Mahmud, GAM’s former “prime minister” and Partai Aceh’s founder, has since assumed the title and role that some in the party’s old guard see as a kind of constitutional monarch. How the final version of this regulation emerges will send important signals about the party’s willingness to let go of some of its feudal tendencies. 

Aceh’s development will also depend on Jakarta and the willingness of national institutions to confront the party if it challenges the constitution or acts outside the law. Local police have shown a distinct reluctance to move against the KPA. When several members were implicated in the killings of Javanese workers in December and January, it took the elite Detachment 88 from Jakarta to make the arrests, and many Acehnese doubt that there is much interest in probing the case further. 

Likewise when the party last year refused to accept a Constitutional Court ruling, Home Affairs seemed to take its side, on the grounds that the largest party in Aceh had to be “accommodated” – and it was. The lesson may be that defiance of national institutions carries no costs, particularly as 2014 draws closer.

Many Acehnese we met assume that if its elected officials don’t deliver, they will be thrown out in five years. But with an absence of checks and balances, combined with an ability to direct significant resources to members, the party may be difficult to dislodge.

Whatever happens, Aceh’s experiment in post-conflict governance will be closely watched.

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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