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No, the military isn't running Indonesia
No, the military isn't running Indonesia
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Op-Ed / Asia

No, the military isn't running Indonesia

Originally published in International New York Times

In the early hours of Monday, July 23, President Abdurrahman Wahid ordered dissolution of the People's Consultative Assembly, which was due to meet that day to dismiss him. But leaders of the armed forces and police refused to obey the order, just as they had rejected his recurring proposal during the previous six months to introduce emergency rule. So Mr. Wahid was unable to prevent the assembly from replacing him that afternoon with the vice president, Megawati Sukarnoputri. At a time when the military is still searching for an appropriate role as a professional force, Mr. Wahid's efforts to gain its support for an emergency decree presented its leaders with a dilemma. Refusal to obey the democratically elected president was clearly an act of insubordination. But obedience would have allied the military with him in his struggle against the democratically elected legislature.

Of course, the military's decision was also influenced by the pragmatic consideration that it did not want to be identified with a political leader whose prospects for survival were declining by the day.

Does the military's defiance of the president indicate that it has abandoned its low profile and intends to reassert itself in the political arena? Many commentators have noted that military leaders became close to Mrs. Megawati in the last year or so, and have predicted that the military will become a major force in her government.

That officers had gravitated toward Mrs. Megawati does not, however, indicate the existence of a special relationship. The military's move toward her was due more to alienation from Mr. Wahid than to confidence in her. The political system is such that the vice president is the only constitutional alternative to an incumbent president. And it was not only military officers who moved toward Mrs. Megawati. Almost the entire political elite and much of the public made the same journey.

Much has been made of the common nationalist outlook of the new president and the armed forces. In particular it has been pointed out that both Mrs. Megawati and the military leaders are committed to preservation of the Indonesian nation. Neither is prepared to countenance the possible departure of either Aceh or Irian Jaya from the republic. But which significant political force in Indonesia, outside those two provinces, advocates their separation? That Mrs. Megawati and the military agree on holding Indonesia together does not create a special bond between them that is not shared by virtually everyone else. A few retired generals hold senior leadership positions in Mrs. Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle. But retired military officers are found in several parties, not only hers. They undoubtedly share some common attitudes; but their primary identity is with their respective parties, and they can't be seen as instruments of military domination. In the case of Mrs. Megawati's party, the two most prominent former military officers served as regional commanders but never occupied the highest posts in the military headquarters.

There are few grounds for believing that President Megawati will pave the way for restoring the political power of the armed forces. Her political party was the victim of military repression before 1998. The new president and the military leaders share a common conservatism and suspicion of radical change. Mrs. Megawati is unlikely to embark on a far-reaching program of reform, including reform in the military field. Officers accused of perpetrating human right abuses in the course of carrying out their military duties, whether in East Timor, Aceh or Jakarta, are not likely to be tried.

The army's current military offensive in Aceh and repressive measures against supporters of independence for Irian Jaya will not be halted by Mrs. Megawati. And, most importantly for the military, its business interests are not likely to be disturbed. But this hardly amounts to return of the armed forces to a dominant role in the national government.

The writer, who directs the International Crisis Group's Indonesia Project in Jakarta, contributed this comment to the International Herald Tribune.

For Related Topics See: Opinion but their primary identity is with their respective parties, and they can't be seen as instruments of military domination. In the case of Mrs. Megawati's party, the two most prominent former military officers served as regional commanders but never occupied the highest posts in the military headquarters.

There are few grounds for believing that President Megawati will pave the way for restoring the political power of the armed forces. Her political party was the victim of military repression before 1998. The new president and the military leaders share a common conservatism and suspicion of radical change. Mrs. Megawati is unlikely to embark on a far-reaching program of reform, including reform in the military field. Officers accused of perpetrating human right abuses in the course of carrying out their military duties, whether in East Timor, Aceh or Jakarta, are not likely to be tried.

The army's current military offensive in Aceh and repressive measures against supporters of independence for Irian Jaya will not be halted by Mrs. Megawati. And, most importantly for the military, its business interests are not likely to be disturbed. But this hardly amounts to return of the armed forces to a dominant role in the national government.

Op-Ed / Asia

Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force

Originally published in The Interpreter

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.