Indonesia: The Search for Peace in Maluku
Indonesia: The Search for Peace in Maluku
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Report 31 / Asia

Indonesia: The Search for Peace in Maluku

Executive Summary

The fighting that broke out between Christians and Muslims in Ambon, the capital of Indonesia’s Maluku province, on 19 January 1999 triggered a virtual civil war that soon spread to other parts of the province. At least 5,000 people (perhaps as many as 10,000) have been killed and close to 700,000   – almost one-third of the population     of

2.1 million – became refugees. Peace has yet to be achieved although violence has declined sharply during the last year. Refugees are beginning to return to predominantly Muslim North Maluku (which was separated from the old Maluku province in September 1999) but tensions remain high in Ambon and surrounding islands that are the core of the new Maluku province.

During the initial phase, each side inflicted heavy casualties. But in mid-2000 there was a qualitative change when a Java-based fundamentalist Islamic militia, Laskar Jihad, responding to the perception that Muslims were getting the worst of it, sent several thousand fighters to Ambon. They had received basic military training from a small group of sympathetic officers within the Indonesian National Military (TNI – Tentara Nasional Indonesia) and were supplied with modern weapons after their arrival in Maluku.

Supported by elements in the security forces, the Laskar Jihad put the Christian militias on the defensive, inflicted casualties on the Christian community and forced thousands of Christians to flee, causing the national government to impose a civil emergency in the two Maluku provinces in June 2000. Although Muslim offensives continued, by early 2001 the level of violence was declining and most of the population had been partitioned into Christian and Muslim zones.

The security forces failed dismally to contain the conflict during the first eighteen months partly because they were hamstrung by the competing sympathies many Christian and Muslim personnel felt for co-religionists. After the introduction of the civil emergency, however, the military adopted a new strategy involving establishment of a Joint Battalion (Yon Gab Batalyon Gabungan), a centralised mobile reserve drawn from elite forces of the three services that could be sent quickly to conflict areas. In a context where Muslim   militias

– backed by Laskar Jihad and some military and police personnel – were gaining ground, the Yon Gab found itself usually confronting Muslim forces and soon gained a pro-Christian reputation.

The Yon Gab appears to have contributed to the decline in fighting but credible allegations about the brutality of some of its members besmirched its reputation and aggravated Muslim antagonism. In November 2001 it was withdrawn and replaced by army special forces (Kopassus).

In contrast to North Maluku and the southeast part of the Maluku province, shootings and bomb explosions continue on Ambon and nearby islands although attacks on Christian villages and direct armed confrontations are now rare. Laskar Jihad is less openly involved in launching direct attacks on Christians and seems to be concentrating more on religious and social-welfare activities in Maluku although it continues to provide military training and has sent fighters to Poso in South Sulawesi.

Laskar Jihad and another, smaller and more secretive, Muslim militia, the Laskar Mujahidin, have been suspected of links to terrorist organisations outside Indonesia including Al- Qaeda though ICG has found no strong evidence suggesting a significant foreign connection to the troubles in Maluku. In addition, military and police deserters – Christian and Muslim – appear to be involved in occasional attacks. On the Christian side, youth gangs are ready to retaliate if the violence rises. Local speculation suggests that some elements in the security forces tolerate, or even support, a low level of continuing violence in order to induce property-owners to pay protection money. Continuing emergency conditions also give security personnel other lucrative opportunities.

During the last year there have been signs that at least some Muslims are losing enthusiasm for Laskar Jihad. In the past Maluku’s Muslims have not been especially attracted to “fundamentalist” movements, and most do not identify closely with Laskar Jihad. However, many are grateful for its role in fending off Christian militias. Muslims lack confidence in the security forces to maintain order and fear that Laskar Jihad’s withdrawal would leave them vulnerable to revenge attacks. However, Christian leaders see its presence as the key obstacle to a more permanent peace.

An effective peace agreement still seems far off in Ambon where Muslim leaders and Laskar Jihad are convinced that the Christian side started the fighting and demand that its leaders apologise on behalf of their community and the brains behind the conflict be prosecuted. Christians are equally convinced that Muslims started the conflict. They also have only limited confidence in the TNI’s capacity to protect them.

The government’s main priority is to ensure that large scale fighting does not resume. To preserve the present “peace”, it is essential that the security forces behave in a professional and neutral manner. In Maluku, however, the reality is that local forces, both the military and especially the police, are highly vulnerable to “contamination”, partisan alignment with their own religious community. Although Yon Gab contributed to the decline in violence during 2001, its brutal excesses alienated Muslims. The force that replaced it has yet to win the confidence of both communities.

In North Maluku return to “normalcy” is much more advanced, partly because the Muslim majority is too large to feel threatened politically. Although some of the worst massacres took place on Halmahera in North Maluku, it is now increasingly possible for refugees to return. The security forces are needed to prevent revenge attacks but it is hoped that a “natural” reconciliation process can take place.

In Maluku, especially Ambon, government and military emphasise that reconciliation should  not be “forced” and should proceed “naturally”. This means the partition of Ambon and other regions into Christian and Muslim zones will not be ended soon. But the longer partition lasts, the harder reconciliation will be. Meanwhile, limited steps have been taken to provide more opportunities for the communities to meet naturally such as establishment of markets in “neutral” areas of Ambon where Christian and Muslims can intermingle. The Baku Bae (reconciliation) movement has sponsored informal meetings between leaders. However, these initiatives are still in early stages, and there is no expectation that natural reconciliation will be achieved quickly.

In January 2002, the national government persuaded leaders of both communities to participate in a peace conference the following month but the gap between the sides  remains  wide, and the search for peace is far from over.

Jakarta/Brussels, 8 February 2002

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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