Papua: The Dangers of Shutting Down Dialogue
Papua: The Dangers of Shutting Down Dialogue
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  1. Overview
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Briefing 47 / Asia

Papua: The Dangers of Shutting Down Dialogue

There is serious risk the long-awaited Papuan People's Council (Majelis Rakyat Papua, MRP) is about to collapse, only five months after it was established, ending hopes that it could ease tensions between Papuans and the central government.

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There is serious risk the long-awaited Papuan People's Council (Majelis Rakyat Papua, MRP) is about to collapse, only five months after it was established, ending hopes that it could ease tensions between Papuans and the central government. The MRP was designed as the centrepiece of the autonomy package granted the country’s easternmost province in 2001. Almost as soon as it came into being, however, it was faced with two major crises – stalled talks over the legal status of West Irian Jaya, the province carved out of Papua in 2003, and violence sparked by protests over the giant Freeport mine – while Jakarta marginalised its mediation attempts. To revive genuine dialogue and salvage the institution before autonomy is perhaps fatally damaged, President Yudhoyono should meet the MRP in Papua, thus acknowledging its importance, while the MRP should move beyond non-negotiable demands and offer realistic policy options to make autonomy work.

Papuan leaders had envisaged the MRP as a representative body of indigenous leaders that would protect Papuan culture and values in the face of large-scale migration from elsewhere in Indonesia and exploitation of Papua’s natural resources. Jakarta-based politicians saw it as a vehicle for Papuan nationalism and deliberately diluted its powers, then delayed its birth. By the time it emerged, the province had been divided into two, many Papuans were disillusioned with autonomy and some were already questioning how the MRP could function under such circumstances.

The MRP’s authority remains uncertain. If it can manoeuvre its way through these two crises, it may yet be able to take on other outstanding grievances and become what Papua has always lacked, a genuinely representative dialogue partner with Jakarta. If it fails, not only will its own legitimacy be diminished, but local resentment against the central government will almost certainly increase.

The signs are not good. As negotiations between the MRP and the central government were underway to resolve the disputed legal status of West Irian Jaya (Irian Jaya Barat, IJB), Jakarta suddenly authorised gubernatorial elections there, cementing its status as a separate province outside autonomy. The MRP, despite its hard-line rhetoric, had begun to show signs of willingness to compromise, but rather than reciprocate, the central government sidelined it. The MRP is now grappling with whether continued negotiations are possible, and if not, whether it should disband. But with large local turnout in the West Irian Jaya elections, and the local support that implies for the province, the bigger question is whether the MRP is still a relevant actor.

Meanwhile, student-led demonstrations in Papua and by Papuan students in Java and Sulawesi demanding closure of the Freeport mine in Timika and the withdrawal of military forces there, which had been escalating since late February, culminated in a violent clash in Abepura on 16 March, in which four police and an air force officer were killed and several civilians seriously injured. The subsequent police sweeps have been heavy handed, and the atmosphere remains tense. The MRP's attempts to engage the central government on this issue were quickly brushed aside.

Successful MRP mediation of these tensions is becoming more crucial as the chances of it happening become more remote. The MRP has not made its own case any easier but it is now up to the central government to bring it back on board. If sufficient trust can be reestablished to resume dialogue, a compromise on West Irian Jaya is still possible, building on the baseline consensus reached by the central government and top Papuan provincial leaders in late November 2005. The essence of that agreement was that Papua would remain a single economic, social, and cultural entity, regardless of the administrative division. That is, there would be a single MRP, and the autonomy funds from the central government and revenues raised in each province from resource exploitation – from the gold and copper of the Freeport mine in Papua and from the BP natural gas project in West Irian Jaya – would be shared by both.

Since the elections, the MRP’s bargaining position has been further weakened, but it is critically important now to reach a compromise on the issue – not just in the interests of resolving two crises, but to make the MRP a functioning institution. Failure to bolster the MRP would almost certainly deal a fatal blow to an autonomy package in which many Papuans are already losing faith. Given the current volatility in Papua, it is in everyone’s interests to make sure this does not happen.

Jakarta/Brussels, 23 March 2006

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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