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Indonesia: Rethinking Internal Security Strategy
Indonesia: Rethinking Internal Security Strategy
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Report 90 / Asia

Indonesia: Rethinking Internal Security Strategy

A major challenge facing Indonesia's new president, Soesilo Bambang Yudhoyono, is reform of the internal security sector.

Executive Summary

A major challenge facing Indonesia's new president, Soesilo Bambang Yudhoyono, is reform of the internal security sector. He could make an important contribution by initiating a comprehensive review of policy and operations, in order to develop a roadmap to guide organisational reform, a legislative agenda and a strategy for conflict prevention and resolution. Only presidential leadership can trump institutional rivalries and launch a process that is vital to Indonesia's democratisation.

Major problems include:

  • unclear institutional division of labour, particularly between the police and the military (Tentara Nasional Indonesia, TNI);
  • contradictory or ambiguously worded legislation on some aspects of internal security and no legislation at all on others;
  • lack of accountability of the security services;
  • inadequate oversight of operations; and
  • no strategic direction.

One of the thorniest issues is the precise division of labour between the police and military. Formal responsibility for internal security has rightly been allocated to the police but there are "grey areas", such as counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency, where the roles are poorly defined. Moreover, even in areas that are exclusively police responsibility, such as upholding law and order, police capacity remains weak. The force needs to be doubled and its performance markedly improved before the military can be confined to external defence, the ultimate goal of most reformers. The question is how to define a transition role for the military in internal security while police capacity is being developed, without further blurring the lines between them. A law on TNI support to the police is currently being drafted, but has become a source of friction.

Intelligence is another difficult area, particularly in light of Indonesia's terrorism problem. The intelligence functions of the police, military, and National Intelligence Agency (BIN) overlap, and coordination is not smooth. The government needs to work out an appropriate division of labour, probably through legislation, but in a way that ensures that all three maintain political neutrality, are subject to civilian oversight, and do not acquire powers beyond what is acceptable in a democratic society.

The president has several options for addressing another problem, the lack of any clear policy direction or control over internal security. One possibility is to strengthen the office of the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs, his old job. Another is to create a U.S.-style National Security Council, an idea much talked about but difficult to implement without a legislative mandate. He could also give the internal security portfolio to an existing ministry, or create a new ministry for the purpose. But any new bureaucratic arrangement would require funding, and the president would have an uphill battle to secure the necessary support from an obstreperous parliament he does not control.

No reforms are likely to succeed, however, without effective, professional oversight mechanisms involving the parliament, the courts, parts of the executive branch itself, and civil society. Without both fiscal and human rights accountability, legislative or bureaucratic changes can only go part way toward solving the problems.

As a first step toward a comprehensive review of internal security, the Yudhoyono government should consider producing a concept paper that defines the problems, allocates responsibilities among different bodies, provides guidance on capability development, and identifies how these will change as conflict is resolved and capacity improves.

Jakarta/Brussels, 20 December 2004

Briefing 139 / Asia

Indonesia: Tensions Over Aceh’s Flag

A dispute over a flag in Aceh is testing the limits of autonomy, irritating Indonesia’s central government, heightening ethnic tensions, reviving a campaign for the division of the province and raising fears of violence as the 2014 national elections approach.

I. Overview

The decision of the Aceh provincial government to adopt the banner of the former rebel Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM) as its official provincial flag is testing the limits of autonomy, irritating Jakarta, heightening ethnic and political tensions, reviving a campaign for the division of Aceh and raising fears of violence as a national election approaches in 2014.

On 25 March 2013, the provincial legislature adopted a regulation (qanun) making the GAM’s old banner the provincial flag. It was immediately signed by Governor Zaini Abdullah. The governor and deputy governor are members of Partai Aceh, the political party set up by former rebel leaders in 2008 that also controls the legislature.

The central government, seeing the flag as a separatist symbol and thus in violation of national law, immediately raised objections and asked for changes. Partai Aceh leaders, seeing the flag as a potent tool for mass mobilisation in 2014, have refused, arguing that it cannot be a separatist symbol if GAM explicitly recognised Indonesian sovereignty as part of the Helsinki peace agreement in 2005 that ended a nearly 30-year insurgency. Partai Aceh believes that if it remains firm, Jakarta will eventually concede, as it did in 2012 over an election dispute.

Indonesian President Yudhoyono’s government is torn. On the one hand, it does not want a fight with the GAM leaders; the 2005 peace agreement is the most important achievement of a president who, in his final term, is very much concerned about his legacy. It also is unwilling to provoke GAM too far, fearful that it will return to conflict, a fear many in Aceh discount as unwarranted but one that Partai Aceh has exploited with relish. On the other hand, it does not want to be branded as anti-nationalist as the 2014 election looms, especially as some in the security forces remain convinced that GAM has not given up the goal of independence and is using democratic means to pursue it. The president and his advisers also know that if they allow the GAM flag to fly, it will have repercussions in Papua, where dozens of pro-independence activists remain jailed for flying the “Morning Star” flag of the independence movement.

GAM leaders see little to lose by standing their ground. The flag is a hugely emotive symbol, and defying Jakarta is generally a winning stance locally. Some individual members of parliament see it as a way of regaining waning popularity for failing to deliver anything substantive to their constituencies. Also, Partai Aceh took a controversial decision to partner with Gerindra, the party of former army General Prabowo Subianto, for the 2014 election. Leaders like Muzakir Manaf, deputy governor and former commander of GAM’s armed wing, may want to use the flag issue to show they have not compromised their principles by allying with a man whose human rights record is often questioned.

Within Aceh, adoption of the GAM flag has sparked protests from non-Acehnese ethnic groups in the central highlands and south west. The GAM heartland has always been along the east coast; to highlanders like the Gayo, the flag thus represents the domination of the coastal Acehnese at their expense. The issue has revived a dormant campaign for the division of Aceh into three by the creation of two new provinces, Aceh Leuser Antara (ALA) for the central highlands and Aceh Barat Selatan (ABAS) for the south west. If GAM does not back down on the flag, support for that campaign by the intelligence services is likely to rise, and with it, the probability of increased ethnic tensions.

The options for breaking the stalemate seem to be as follows: the government concedes; GAM concedes, making slight changes to the flag by adding or removing an element; GAM agrees to limits on how or where the flag can be displayed; or the dispute is taken to the Supreme Court, thereby delaying any resolution.

In the meantime, the power of the GAM machinery in Aceh continues to grow.

Jakarta /Brussels, 7 May 2013