Indonesia: Ending Repression in Irian Jaya
Indonesia: Ending Repression in Irian Jaya
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Report 23 / Asia

Indonesia: Ending Repression in Irian Jaya

Indonesian policy in Irian Jaya is at a critical point. Since August 2000 the government has been able to restore its authority in the province by closing  in the political space that had developed after the fall of President Soeharto.

Executive Summary

Indonesian policy in Irian Jaya is at a critical point. Since August 2000 the government has been able to restore its authority in the province by closing  in the political space that had developed after the fall of President Soeharto. The government has curtailed open demands for independence and the mobilisation of popular support for this objective. However, the methods used represent a return to those employed by President Soeharto -- relying principally on the government’s near monopoly of military power. The effect of this has been to compound the political problems posed by Papuan demands for independence.

Simultaneously with the crack-down on Papuan political activity, the government has been promoting a policy of Special Autonomy for the province. This policy offers the best prospects for a long-term resolution of problems that have plagued Irian Jaya’s integration into Indonesia since 1963. A strong Special Autonomy law could help break the cycle of repression and alienation. However, it is difficult to envisage that this policy can be successfully  promoted and implemented in conditions where Jakarta’s authority rests on its use of repressive security measures and the seemingly inevitable abuse of human rights.

Irian Jaya was the last region of the Netherlands Indies to be incorporated into Indonesia, twelve years after the rest of the country. Papuans were only marginally involved in Indonesia’s struggle for independence. During the last eighteen years of colonial administration, the Dutch successfully fostered a Papuan identity separate from Indonesia. They established a program of decolonisation that envisaged the establishment of an independent state of West Papua by 1970.

Incorporation in Indonesia, rather than transforming Papuans from being subjects of a European colonial power into citizens of an independent state, has served to consolidate a separate Papuan identity. The Papuan feeling of marginalisation is related to the massive influx of migrant settlers from elsewhere in the archipelago, facilitated and supported by Indonesian governments. The Indonesian migrant settlers dominate the economy of the province. Many Papuans consider that Indonesia is more interested in exploiting their land’s resources than in its indigenous peoples.

Papuan resistance to Indonesian control commenced with incorporation. The guerrilla resistance was more effective in keeping alive the ideal of independence than ever threatening Indonesian control. The fall of President Soeharto facilitated the transformation of Papuan resistance into a movement led by an urban elite, supported by key leaders with traditional authority, advocating independence by non-violent means. The pro-independence leaders, who came to form the Papuan Presidium Council, successfully mobilised support broadly in Papuan society and established a province-wide organisation.

The Indonesian government’s policy responses to the Papuan demands for independence have been uncertain and inconsistent. The revival of Papuan national ideals poses particular difficulties for the government and the broader political elite. The twelve year struggle Indonesia waged to reclaim Irian Jaya from The Netherlands had broad support and its success in 1962 is regarded as a national triumph. Like Aceh, Irian Jaya is resource rich. The governments of presidents Habibie and Abdurrahman Wahid recognised that the people of the province had suffered political repression, abuse of human rights and economic exploitation during Soeharto’s New Order government. President Megawati apologised for the suffering caused by past policies. The post-Soeharto governments have had considerable difficulty in formulating new policies of regional governance in Irian Jaya that are compatible with national ideals for democratising the political system. This challenge has become more acute since the separation of East Timor heightened fears of the disintegration of the state.

Presidents Habibie and Wahid established a dialogue with Papuan leaders. Wahid made important symbolic gestures by allowing the Papuan “Morning Star” flag to be flown and gave his blessing for “Papua” to be used as the name for the province, rather than “Irian Jaya” although this change was never formally implemented and was in fact rejected by the MPR in August 2000. He provided financial support for the pro-independence Papuan Congress. However, his accommodating and tolerant attitude was severely criticised by national legislators and the President was instructed to take more decisive action against separatist activities in Irian Jaya, as in Aceh. In August 2000, the Special Session of the National Consultative Assembly’s criticism of the President marked the beginning of a much tougher approach to pro-independence activities in Irian Jaya.

The detention and trial of pro-independence leaders, the show of force to mark Papuan “independence” day and the tough security measures that have been taken subsequently mark the end of political openness and the return to the forms of governance, dependent on the use of force, that have characterised the Indonesian administration of the territory since 1963. Unlike in Aceh, Indonesia has been able to reassert its authority in Irian Jaya. However, killings, torture and indiscriminate reprisals have accompanied this. The counterproductive dynamic of repression and alienation has been resumed.

The government of Indonesia has a responsibility to maintain its territorial integrity. The issue with respect to Irian Jaya is whether the methods currently being employed will assist in the resolution or whether they will compound the problems that have bedevilled Indonesian governance since 1963.

The objective of the “Special Autonomy” is political. It is to persuade Papuans that their preferred future should be as citizens of Indonesia – an Indonesia in which they can manage their own political development and enjoy the produce of their land and its resources. Experience has made Papuans highly sceptical of the government’s intentions. A form of “Special Autonomy” that does not reflect Papuan aspirations will have little or no utility and will serve to discredit autonomy as an alternative to independence and undermine the credibility of those Papuans leaders who have publicly advocated autonomy. The House of Representatives has passed “Special Autonomy” legislation for Aceh and is considering a draft for Irian Jaya.

A strong Special Autonomy law, however, will only be the first phase of a long process of capacity and institution building. It will provide an institutional and policy framework in which Papuan social and economic disadvantage can be addressed but it does not in itself overcome those disadvantages.

 Jakarta/Brussels, 20 September 2001

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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