Looking ahead in Indonesia: Challenges for the president-elect
Looking ahead in Indonesia: Challenges for the president-elect
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Op-Ed / Asia

Looking ahead in Indonesia: Challenges for the president-elect

For the first time ever, Indonesians have chosen a president through direct elections and given the victor a whopping mandate for change. General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono or SBY, now certain to be the country's next president, will come to office on Oct. 20 with more legitimacy than any president since Sukarno.

Now the question is what kind of a leader he will be. What are his priorities, what does the Indonesian public expect of him, and how much will he be able to deliver?

It's difficult to get much of a clue from the campaign, because it was personality-driven and virtually issue-free. Indeed, one unofficial campaign document said he deserved the presidency because, among other things, he was firm, effective, visionary, strategic, reformist, clean, responsible, patriotic, devout, gregarious, charismatic, and sexy.

To the extent he has committed himself to specific policies, he has focused more on job creation, legal reform, and cheaper education, but without going into detail. The first signals about his intentions in this regard will come from his cabinet choices. If he gets top notch professionals and he may well for the economic slots, as well as for the Education and Justice Ministries and the attorney general, then we might see more substantive reforms down the road.

  • Other issues are murkier:Corruption. SBY has said he will made his administration corruption-free, but that's easier said than done when some of the traditionally "wet" (corruption-prone) posts, such as Transport and Communication, may have to go to political allies. He might use an activist attorney general to prosecute some high-level corruption cases, but it is also possible that he may not want to make political enemies right off the bat. 
  • Terrorism. SBY is likely to make moves to improve inter-agency cooperation, but it is not clear whether he will act to ban Jemaah Islamiyah or to look at terrorism as an issue that goes beyond law enforcement. The domestic political constraints he faces from the conservative Muslim community, worried how anti-terror moves might stigmatize Islam, and from political reform advocates, concerned that any increased powers of arrest and detention would mean a rollback of hard-won civil liberties, are the same as those confronting his predecessor.
  •  Security Sector Reform. Don't expect major progress on this front. SBY had a reputation as a reformer within the armed forces, and he is on the record about the need for civilian control. But he has already backtracked on earlier statements supporting gradual elimination of the army's territorial command structure, a key to military reform, and he has waffled on whether the military should be brought under the Ministry of Defense, or left where it is, under the direct control of the president. SBY will need to move quickly to assuage police worries that he has no intention of undermining their authority over internal security. Festering army-police rivalry remains a serious problem, and many in the police backed Megawati because they were worried about SBY's military ties.
  • Aceh. SBY is not likely to abruptly terminate military operations or to revert to negotiations in this rebellious area. But he could well put Aceh higher on the agenda than President Megawati Sukarnoputri did, making more trips to the region and spending more time on addressing basic governance issues. That would be an improvement, but no dramatic move is likely in this decades-old conflict.
  • Decentralization. SBY supports efforts to amend two regional autonomy laws that have resulted in a massive transfer of fiscal and political power from the central government to some 450 districts across the country. The transfer has been largely healthy, but it also has been marked by legal confusion, an absence of regulatory mechanisms, and, in some cases, increased corruption. Amending the laws will be a tricky political balancing act between Jakarta and local governments, and a test for SBY.

The problem is that the new president-elect is not by nature a risk-taker, and, despite his campaign document, is not a visionary. No one should expect big, bold moves. SBY will also have to work with a parliament that his tiny party does not control. Either he makes alliances and compromises, or he vanishes five years hence as a serious political player.

The best scenario is that SBY will make slow, steady progress on the three areas his team has identified as priorities, that he will prove the skeptics wrong by being a hands-on, activist president, and that he will leave the country significantly cleaner, safer, and richer at the end of his first term. The worst scenario is that he ends up muddling through like his predecessor.

For the moment, Indonesians should savor not just SBY's victory, but their own in producing so peaceful a changing of the guard.

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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