Indonesia: Keeping the Military Under Control
Indonesia: Keeping the Military Under Control
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Report 9 / Asia

Indonesia: Keeping the Military Under Control

There has been since the fall of Soeharto’s New Order in May 1998 a drastic decline in the political influence of the military.

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There has been since the fall of Soeharto's New Order in May 1998 a drastic decline in the political influence of the military. It no longer exercises a dominant influence over the government, and at present is in no position to regain political power. However, the full consolidation of democracy will require the dissolution, or at least drastic re-orientation, of the territorial network, the civilianisation of the domestic intelligence agencies, the regularisation of military finances, and the establishment of military cohesion and discipline. It will also require the formulation of an unambiguous doctrine supporting civilian supremacy.

This process of bringing the military under control was in train under President Habibie: the military's representation in the national and regional legislatures was reduced, active officers were prohibited from being elected or appointed to positions in the civilian government, the military adopted a stance of neutrality between political parties, and the police were separated from the armed forces.

Civilian control of the government was consolidated by President Abdurrahman Wahid after his election in October 1999. The decisive moment was in February 2000 when he in effect dismissed General Wiranto from his Cabinet after Wiranto was named in an official report as being among those responsible for human-rights violations in East Timor during 1999. That the president had established his authority was indicated by the virtual absence of reaction from the military when the military 'strong-man' of only four months earlier was forced out of the government. During the first months of the Abdurrahman presidency the military leadership formally abandoned the Dwifungsi (Dual Function) doctrine that had guided their political involvement during the Soeharto era.

Although the military no longer plays a decisive role in the government, its withdrawal from participation in day-to-day politics has proceeded at an uneven pace and is not yet complete. Military officers continue to be involved in some political activities carried over from the Soeharto era, including holding seats in the legislatures. The appointed military representatives are only due to leave the national and regional parliaments in 2004 and the People's Consultative Assembly in 2009. And the Indonesian National Military (TNI) retains other resources through which it can still exert political influence:

  • Through its territorial structure, the army maintains military units in every province, district and sub-district throughout Indonesia, which provides it with the means to influence political developments at every level of government.
  • The military, especially the army, is still strongly represented in the state and military intelligence agencies which continue to focus on domestic political and social affairs.
  • The military, through business enterprises and other means, raises funds to cover around 75 per cent of its expenditures. These fund-raising activities are generally not subject to public scrutiny: military commanders have access to large sums of money that could be used to finance future political manoeuvres.

Despite these political resources, it is not possible for the military to regain control of the government in the near future. It is far too fragmented to act cohesively; it lacks confidence in its capacity to provide answers to Indonesia's manifold challenges; and, most importantly, its leaders know that any attempt to restore its political power would almost certainly trigger massive demonstrations throughout the country, which could easily turn into riots – which they are unsure, in turn,  of their capacity to handle.

Nevertheless, military officers – either on their own initiative or on instructions from higher levels in the military hierarchy – have sometimes engaged in activities that seem designed to undermine the authority of the elected government. For example:

  • There are some indications of military resistance to government policy, especially in regions experiencing disturbed security conditions, such as Aceh, Maluku, West Timor and Irian Jaya;
  • Although not proven, it is widely believed in political circles – including at the highest levels in the government – that some retired officers continue to influence serving officers to carry out activities, including the aggravation of social conflict, to undermine the stability of civilian government; and
  • The military seems to have succeeded in delaying and obstructing the holding of trials of officers accused of violation of human rights.

This report identifies the basic measures that need now to be taken to reinforce the current commitment of the Indonesian military to stay out of politics – practical measures aimed at restraining the capacity of the military, or elements within it, to challenge and frustrate government policies by unconstitutional means. The emphasis here is on the direction of the necessary responses rather than their administrative detail: future ICG reports on the military will address such issues as the role of the military and police in internal security operations, military power at the local level, and the politics of military reform.

Some of the recommendations developed in the concluding chapter of this report, and summarised below, require action by the military alone, but for the most part what is required is a cooperative relationship between the government and military – with the civilian government playing the leadership role. There are roles in the process of military reform for many actors – the President and his ministers, the legislatures, and the civilian political forces, as well as the military itself. But basic questions about the functioning of the military should not be decided by the military alone, simply because these matters are of fundamental importance for the nation as a whole. The ultimate goal in a democratic society must always be the achievement of full democratic control over military affairs by the civilian government.

Jakarta/Brussels, 5 September 2000

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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