The key step for peace is ending corruption
The key step for peace is ending corruption
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Op-Ed / Asia

The key step for peace is ending corruption

The Indonesian government will soon decide whether to impose a state of emergency in Aceh, the rebellious and resource-rich region on the tip of Sumatra island. But if Jakarta were serious about ending the separatist rebellion in Aceh, it would not be talking about a military solution. It would be talking instead about ending corruption, upholding the law, and making the conflict less profitable for all parties concerned.

Now more than ever, the war in Aceh is about money, and no one is clean. An autonomy law, adopted last year, has created a giant slush fund for provincial officials from oil and gas revenues, with no effective controls over how the money is spent. Every day, the local press carries stories about misspent funds, missing budget allocations, suspected cronyism, or crooked contractors.

The duty-free port of Sabang, on an island off the coast of Banda Aceh, has become a smuggler's haven, with luxury cars only one of the goods coming in from Singapore. Aceh's governor has been named repeatedly as being behind some of the smuggling.

Indonesian civilian and military officials, as well as the Acehnese rebels who say they are fighting for independence, demand their cut from aid and project funds to the point that potential investors may be more frightened off by the skimming than by the lack of security. Shopkeepers have to pay protection money to both the police and the Free Aceh Movement, known by its Indonesian acronym as GAM. It has stepped up kidnappings for ransom: A group of guerrillas took an ethnic Chinese woman off a bus last month, thinking because she was Chinese, she must be rich (she wasn't).

The gang held her until her family came up with the equivalent of $3,500. Criminal thugs have reportedly joined GAM because it offers new opportunities for extortion, while the GAM leadership hit hard by the military offensive under way for more than a year does not appear to be particularly selective about recruits. Police, soldiers, and GAM all collect money along Aceh's roads, sometimes in sight of one another.

After widespread publicity about these illegal levies, police put up signs outside their guard posts on the north-south artery serving Banda Aceh and Medan saying, "The police do not receive contributions from users of the main road."

After dark, the signs go down, and the hands come out. On July 15, truck drivers in South Aceh went on strike, complaining that making a one-way run between Blangpidie and Medan, a 12-hour trip, they had to pay a total of about $190 in unofficial fees One particularly lucrative source of income in Aceh is illegal logging. This has raised questions about a plan, backed by the governor and local military, to build a major new east-west road, called the Ladia Galaska, through virgin forest. The ostensible aim is to help isolated villages. The real aim may be greed on the part of local officials, with money certain to pile up from bribes from bidders, cuts from contractors, and income from the timber that will have to be cut for the road to go through.

When so many people have an economic interest in prolonging the conflict, more soldiers will not help; nor unhappily, will a continuation of the dialogue now going on in Geneva between the government and GAM guerrillas, unless the rampant corruption is addressed. Instead of soliciting opinions about a state of emergency, the government of President Megawati Sukarnoputri in Jakarta should be pressing for greater accountability from the provincial government. A draft regulation on direct election of district heads is languishing in a provincial government office in Banda Aceh, with neither the governor nor most local parliamentarians interested in seeing it adopted.

If local officials were accountable to the electorate in Aceh, most would be long gone. If more economic opportunities were available to young men, GAM might lose some of its recruits. If the courts were working, the officials who are stealing Aceh blind might be punished.

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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