Indonesia: Managing Decentralisation and Conflict in South Sulawesi
Indonesia: Managing Decentralisation and Conflict in South Sulawesi
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Report 60 / Asia

Indonesia: Managing Decentralisation and Conflict in South Sulawesi

What has been the impact of Indonesia’s radical decentralisation program, launched on 1 January 2001, on conflict prevention and management?

Executive Summary

What has been the impact of Indonesia’s radical decentralisation program, launched on 1 January 2001, on conflict prevention and management? This case study of the district of Luwu in South Sulawesi finds results that have thus far been positive. But it remains an open question whether these results are sustainable – and whether Luwu’s success is transferable to other parts of the country.

Indonesia devolved a wide array of powers to districts and cities – the second tier of local government after provinces – accompanied by substantial fiscal transfers from the centre. The legislation on which this decentralisation was based also allowed for the creation of new regions by dividing or merging existing administrative units. In practice, this process known as pemekaran has meant not mergers but administrative fragmentation and the creation of several new provinces and close to 100 new districts.

With some of those districts drawn along ethnic lines and vastly increased economic stakes for local political office, there have been fears of new conflicts over land, resources, or boundaries and of local politicians manipulating tensions for personal political gain. The decentralisation process, however, has also raised the prospect of better conflict prevention and management through the emergence of more accountable local government.

To examine how these hopes and fears might play out, ICG put under the microscope of intensive field study an area prone to conflict which underwent administrative division. Luwu, in South Sulawesi, was chosen for two reasons. First, it was one district in 1999, divided into four by 2003. Secondly, it shared many characteristics of areas that erupted in violence in the post-Soeharto era: tensions between migrants and indigenous groups; competition over resources, particularly land and mineral wealth; and significant communal violence. It became the focus of national attention in 1998 when protracted inter-village violence was brought on by land disputes, social and economic frustrations (peaking in 1998 when cacao prices hit a record high), and the general climate of lawlessness then prevailing.

In Luwu, at least, pemekaran has had a mostly positive impact, in large part because it allowed an effective district head to emerge. Luwu also benefited from the fact that ethnic identity there was too fragmented to be a significant basis for political mobilisation by unscrupulous local politicians. What also helped prevent conflict emerging was the common resentment, among members of the Luwu elite, of the South Sulawesi provincial elite, and a common desire to break away from South Sulawesi to form the new province of Luwu.

Beyond these local factors, however, several more general conclusions about decentralisation and conflict may be drawn:

  • Lack of clarity in the laws governing decentralisation, together with the reluctance of agencies of the central government to give up power, inhibits the ability of local governments to prevent or manage conflict effectively.
  • The success of a new district in preventing or limiting conflict depends in large part on the capacity, commitment, and connections of the district head (bupati) concerned.
  • There is a fundamental contradiction between the retention by the central government of control over police and other security functions and the responsibility for law and order of district heads under the decentralisation laws. Police can only be deployed effectively to address conflict if they are accountable to and funded by local government.
  • Effective management of land disputes is critical to conflict prevention.
  • Strengthening the criminal justice system is key to establishing and maintaining peace between parties to a conflict. “Peacemaking” through traditional ceremonies is not enough.

Jakarta/Brussels, 18 July 2003

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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