Indonesia’s Maluku Crisis: The Issues
Indonesia’s Maluku Crisis: The Issues
Table of Contents
  1. Overview
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Briefing 2 / Asia

Indonesia’s Maluku Crisis: The Issues

Several thousand people have died and hundreds of thousands have become refugees in the last eighteen months as the result of inter-communal fighting in Indonesia’s Maluku islands. The conflict continues at a high level of intensity despite the declaration of a state of emergency in June 2000.

In the last eighteen months, several thousand people have died and hundreds of thousands have become refugees[fn]Estimates of the number killed vary, with 3000 accepted by most groups as the low end of the range. The real numbers are likely to be much higher. See Human Rights Watch, ‘Moluccan Islands, Communal Violence in Indonesia’, 29 June 2000, The US Committee for Refugees has estimated that in 1999 some 370,000 people were displaced by the fighting in Maluku. See USIA website report, ‘USCR World Refugee Statistics’, 14 June 2000. Accounts of the violence come from various sources, including eyewitnesses, and these reports have been filtered through news media and community organisations. Individual accounts may be embellished or distorted but the volume of reports and diversity of sources provide considerable corroboration for these estimates and for the alleged ferocity of the massacres.
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 as the result of inter-communal fighting in Maluku.[fn]Maluku is a disparate grouping of islands and peoples geographically dispersed from north to south over more than 1000 km and unified until 1999 for administrative convenience into one province, which is at least ten times more water than land. The province has now been split into two – Maluku for the southern half of the group and North Maluku for the northern half. There are more than twenty large islands, of which the biggest are Halmahera, Bacan and Obi in the north and Seram, Buru and Ambon in the central region of the province. Ambon, one of the major cities, is 2400 km from Jakarta. As in most parts of Indonesia, local politics have been intimately connected with patronage, access to resources and abuse of power.
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 The violence has escalated over time. What began with sporadic street fighting involving only local people has evolved into a conflict with national implications, particularly with the introduction in May of the Laskar Jihad, a well-organised and well-funded radical Moslem group. Traditional weapons have been replaced by military guns and mortars. The escalating violence prompted the Indonesian government to declare a civil emergency in late June. Affected Christian communities have appealed for international help.

The mass inter-communal violence in Maluku began in Ambon city on 19 January 1999 in a street brawl reportedly triggered by a fight between a Christian bus driver and a Moslem passenger. At least 200 people were killed in Ambon city and its environs over the following two months, but some sources report the number may have been more than 1000. The violence followed the arrival in mid-December 1998 of 200 Ambonese Christians deported from Jakarta after a deadly brawl over territory in a red-light district between rival Christian and Muslim Ambonese gangs.

On 8 March 1999, the Indonesian government formed a special Armed Forces team under Major General Suaidi Marasabessy to deal with the violence. Over the subsequent four months, the violence cooled, only to resume on 27 July, when it gained a new intensity and then spread in October to Malifut on Halmahera island. This incident involved inter-village attacks between Kao (mostly Christian) native inhabitants and Makianese (Moslem) migrants. The Makianese were resettled in Malifut in 1975, when it was feared their volcanic home island was about to explode. Relations between them and the dominant local people, the Kao, have always been poor – there have been seven small "wars" between the groups since 1975. The conflict then spread north and on 26 December 1999, nervous Christians attacked Moslem villages in Tobelo and Galela districts in Northern Halmahera, in what their leaders described as a pre-emptive strike. At least 100 were killed, and probably more.

This Christian attack on Moslem villages led to retaliation on 23 January 2000, when about 300 men, wearing white robes, are said to have attacked the Christian village of Haruku Sameth on the island of Haruku, killing eighteen out of a population of 3600, wounding many others and destroying homes with military weapons such as machine guns and grenades.[fn]This is according to several eye-witnesses (and victims) interviewed by a fact-finding team in April 2000. See Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Draft Report on Visit to Indonesia, 12-21 April 2000.
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In April 2000 a radical group based in Java, Laskar Jihad, began to agitate publicly for a Jihad (holy war) to defend Moslems in Maluku, saying they were being slaughtered and unprotected. Some Moslem politicians echoed their calls. The group’s leader, Jafar Umar Thalib, an ascetic Indonesian preacher who had once fought in Afghanistan, went to the Presidential palace in Jakarta at the head of a mob carrying swords and spears to demand an end to the violence in Maluku. The President saw him for five minutes before angrily ordering him out of his office. National authorities subsequently closed the group’s military-style training camp in Bogor, near Jakarta. Its members were, however, allowed to return to their base near Yogyakarta in Central Java and in May an estimated 3000 members of Laskar Jihad left Java for Halmahera and Ambon after declaring publicly their intent to go there to fight. They took control of an existing militia on Ternate, a small island off Halmahera, and used it as a base to begin terrorising northern Halmahera. On 19 June, at least 100 Christians in Duma, in the Galela district of Northern Halmahera, were killed by Laskar Jihad militias operating out of Ternate.

The military and police have stood on the sidelines as violence has raged, and some units have even participated. They have not disarmed combatants, and individual members have sold weapons to them. Army soldiers have sometimes sided with Moslems, while police paramilitary personnel have sometimes sided with Christians. The uniformed services have failed to act to protect unarmed victims. The armed forces and the police did not try to stop the Laskar Jihad’s passage from Java to Maluku in May in spite of specific instructions from President Wahid that they not be allowed to leave Java. These orders were relayed both directly to Armed Forces Chief Widodo and through the civilian Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono.

On 27 June 2000, the national government declared a state of civil emergency – one step below an imposition of martial law.[fn]According to the Foreign Minister, the decision was taken after a number of Ministers met with leaders of the House of Representatives. According to the 1959 Law on State Emergency, the police and the security apparatus may take all necessary steps to restore order, including the conduct of a naval blockade in the Moluccan seas; preventing the entry of suspicious elements into the territory; conducting sweeping operations to confiscate illegal weapons; imposing a curfew on the residents; replacing the military and police command in the area; imposing media black out; house-to-house searches for weapons and the wiretapping of telephone and radio communications. According to the Foreign Minister, the Indonesian police and the security forces on duty have received strict orders to respect and protect human rights. They have been instructed to avoid excessive use of force. The Office of the State Minister for Human Rights Affairs is preparing a simple manual which will be distributed to every member of the police and the security apparatus in the field so that they will know how to perform their duty without violating human rights.Hide Footnote  It gives the military and the police wide powers to act – but still under civilian command. President Wahid is ultimately responsible, with the Governor, Saleh Latuconsina, in charge in Maluku and the acting Governor, Brig. Gen. (ret.) Abdul Muhjie Effendie, in charge in North Maluku. On the day the emergency was implemented, Governor Latuconsina declared that all conflicting parties should cease their exchange of fire and hostilities. Curfew was imposed from 10 pm until 6 am. Public gatherings were banned and the community was given a general notice to surrender weapons to the authorities by 30 June 2000. Meanwhile the navy intensified its efforts to prevent the smuggling of arms into the region.

On Monday 26 June 2000, the Commander of the Pattimura Military Command, Brigadier-General Max Tamaela, a Christian, was replaced by Colonel I Made Yasa, a Balinese Hindu whom it was hoped would appear neutral to both sides. One of the deputies was also replaced. By July 2000, the uniformed strength in Maluku was at seventeen military battalions and two police paramilitary battalions, totaling approximately 14,000 troops and up from a reported 5,300 one year earlier.

Despite the civil emergency, the conflict is continuing. Not only in Halmahera but also in Ambon, Christians are now on the defensive. Numerous attacks have been launched on predominantly Christian villages near Ambon causing many to flee after homes and churches were destroyed by mortars and firebombs. The Pattimura University in a mostly Christian neighbourhood has also suffered extensive damage. The military, despite being nearby, did not act, and it appears withdrew troops before the attack. In North Maluku over 400 refugees drowned when an overcrowded ship sank in a storm on its way to North Sulawesi. It is estimated that more than 100 people have been killed during the first three weeks of the civil emergency.

Jakarta/Brussels, 19 July 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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