Indonesia's Shaky Transition
Indonesia's Shaky Transition
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Report 5 / Asia

Indonesia's Shaky Transition

The past two years has been a highly turbulent period for Indonesia.

Executive Summary

The past two years has been a highly turbulent period for Indonesia.  The economic crash of 1997 left many Indonesians shell-shocked and deeply insecure.  The mass political uprising of early 1998 reflected profound frustration among the population and produced a political meltdown as Soeharto bowed out after 32 years in power.  Since then, President Habibie has struggled in the face of continuing economic problems, a suspicious military and an anxious elite.  His efforts to satisfy popular demand for political reform have gone sufficiently far to panic the Javanese establishment but not far or fast enough to win the backing of an increasingly weary and impatient public.  The loss of East Timor and international condemnation of the behaviour of Indonesian troops in the province has dealt a blow to national morale and triggered a wave of nationalism that could yet have destructive consequences.  The elections of June 1999 – Indonesia’s first free elections since the 1950s – have yet to produce a clear outcome, though none of the presidential contenders seems ready to embark on a process of radical reform for fear of opening up a confrontation with the military, which continues to exercise great influence in the political arena, despite recent setbacks.

Meanwhile, the flames of impending crisis continue to burn in Aceh, Irian Jaya, Ambon and other parts of the country.  In each case, the instinctive response of the military, to go in all guns blazing, risks dousing fuel on the fire.  The time available to resolve these problems peacefully, through a de-escalation of violence and the negotiation of genuine and substantial autonomy, is running out.

The election of a new government presents Indonesians and the international community alike with a window of opportunity to address these problems head on and thereby prevent Indonesia from turning into a major new zone of instability and conflict.  For the first time in more than four decades, Indonesia will have a government that has some claim to democratic legitimacy, one probably less attached to the record of the past than its predecessor and so freer to face up to and account for past mistakes.  In addition, the incoming government will be anxious to demonstrate an ability to deliver economic recovery, for which international financial support will be vital.  By working with the new government, attaching conditions to international financial assistance and channelling funding through to specific priority areas, the international community can help steer Indonesia in the direction of better governance and greater stability.

One of the most urgent tasks, and one of the greatest challenges, awaiting the new government will be to put in place a programme of reform of the military.  A number of steps need to be taken to reign in the power of the military and subjugate it to civilian control, including an end to the military’s political function; extension of the partial ban on the appointment of serving military officers to posts in the executive and administration; statutory limitation of the powers of the military; permanent withdrawal of the 1999 State Security Bill; the abolition of military representatives in the People's Consultative Assembly; and a review of salaries, recruitment, induction and training programmes.  Also critical will be establishing a genuinely independent investigation into past human rights abuses by members of the armed forces.  Given the hostility of the military such an initiative, it is proposed that the investigation be conducted along the same lines as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa.  This would permit an honest appraisal of the past, acknowledgement of wrongdoing and acceptance of responsibility for past human rights abuses, while protecting individuals from prosecution.

Reforms are also needed to tackle chronic corruption and strengthen the rule of law, including an independent investigation into corruption in the public sector; action to prosecute individuals against whom there is substantial evidence of corrupt practice; a review of the working of the commercial court system and of recently-introduced commercial regulatory legislation; and the introduction of the requirement that all judges publish reasons for court decisions.  The international community should provide whatever technical assistance is required to implement the above reforms and provide assistance in relation to judge training and support for civil society groups active in investigation and exposing evidence of corruption.

Finally, steps must be taken to defuse local tensions and prevent the present violence in Aceh, Irian Jaya and Ambon from escalating into major destabilising conflicts.  Withdrawal of the military to barracks and a thorough investigation into past human rights abuses are both essential prerequisites to solving Indonesia’s regional problems.  So too is agreement on a new package of autonomy laws which provides the regions with real power of autonomy and a fairer share of the profits from local natural resources.  The new government should build on the proposals for greater autonomy developed by the Habibie administration, which are widely seen outside of Java as inadequate, and seek to develop a new model that satisfies the legitimate desire of Indonesia’s regions to manage their own affairs.

The international community should leave the new government in Jakarta in no doubt of its willingness to provide both technical and financial assistance to help ensure the smooth and successful passage of these and other necessary reforms.  However, at the same time, it should be made clear that failure to move in the directions indicated will have serious consequences, including the withdrawal of political and financial support for the new government.

Jakarta, 10 October 1999

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.