Papua: One Simple Step to Take
Papua: One Simple Step to Take
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Op-Ed / Asia

Papua: One Simple Step to Take

If President Yudhoyono is looking for one simple step that could change the ugly political dynamic in Papua, he should announce that police will stop using live ammunition for crowd control.

In one stroke, he could reduce the level of violence, improve police-community relations and signal a new approach to political protests. It won’t silence the independence movement, stop the Freeport strike or resolve election disputes, but it’s a concrete change that could halt the current downward spiral.

If we look at recent incidents where police have opened fire, there isn’t a single one where use of bullets has saved lives or reduced tensions –the effect has been exactly the opposite. Papuans have ended up dead, and grievances have multiplied. This isn’t to say that the police are primarily responsible for Papua’s troubles, they’re not. But the problem of unintended deaths from bullets needlessly fired is at least fixable. More restraint in use of firearms would also be in keeping with Polri’s own Regulation 8/2009 on implementation of human rights principles and standards.

The breakup of the Third Papuan People’s Congress on 19 October is a case study in poor policing, quite apart from human rights concerns. The Congress had been announced for months; it was clearly going to support independence. Absolutely nothing was gained by surrounding the venue with 400 troops on the final day and then rounding up 300 Papuans and hauling them off by trucks to the police station. If the government was determined to make a point about outlawing independence activities, it could have quietly arrested the organisers once the Congress was over.  There was no need to forcibly break up a peaceful meeting that was concluding anyway. What was the result? More anger of Papuans toward the Indonesian state.

Because police fired warning shots into the air, they became immediate suspects when several bodies with gunshot wounds were found the next day. Police claimed that two of the men were the victims of Dani Kogoya, a Papuan thug whom they also blamed for shootings in Abepantai last August. But if police sent to the Congress had not been armed with loaded guns, they would not now be facing accusations of involvement in these deaths.

Likewise in the confrontation between police and striking Freeport workers at the Gorong-gorong bus terminal in Timika on 10 October, one worker was killed and at least five wounded when the police opened fire. Police are supposed to be using rubber bullets in such circumstances; the fatality suggests that either the bullets were live, or that the shooting was too close. (No autopsy results have been made public.) The strikers, who were trying to prevent other workers from going up to the mine, included violent elements that set fire to vehicles and beat up a plainclothes Brimob officer. Having a gun did not prevent the officer from being attacked. Worse, it was seized by members of the mob in the process, adding to the stock of official-issue firearms that find their way into illicit hands. Overall, police action only made the strikers angrier, leading them to make new demands on the company and making resolution of the labor dispute more difficult. If the police needed to disperse the crowd so that buses could leave, tear gas or water cannon would have been more appropriate.

The situation in Puncak Jaya, the mountainous district where the police chief was shot dead on 24 October, is clearly different. There, several small factions of the OPM have been repeatedly ambushing police and military with intent to kill. Under such circumstances, of course the police should carry weapons and be prepared to use them in self-defence.

Police reliance on live ammunition to bring crowds under control is not just a problem in Papua, it happens all over Indonesia – look at the case of Buol, Central Sulawesi where eight civilians died in September 2010 or Ambon last September. But deaths of unarmed civilians at police hands takes on added significance in Papua where resentment against the security forces is already so high.

Moreover, such deaths play into the hands of radicals who know that the best way to get international attention for Papua is through allegations of security force abuses. It is one reason some Papuan militants are hoping for a “second Santa Cruz”, a Papuan version of the 1991 massacre in East Timor that changed political dynamics and arguably paved the way for independence. Papuan militants want a heavy-handed response because it helps their cause.

If the President had a strategy for reaching out to Papua, banning the use of live ammunition for crowd control could be a “quick win”. But instead of strategy, we get rhetoric. SBY, at the Cabinet meeting last Thursday, instructed Coordinating Minister Djoko Suyanto to explain to Amnesty International why the government’s actions in Papua were justified and exhorted his military and police commanders to prevent excesses by their troops.

But exhortations are not going to produce change. Neither will sending this or that team, charged with reporting back to the President. The violence has produced no sense of urgency to install the personnel for UP4B, the new body set up in September to oversee Papua policy, and Gen. Bambang Darmono remains a head-in-waiting, without the mandate to initiate any programs. (In all the media coverage of Papua’s bloody October, there has been almost no mention of UP4B; if it can’t find a way to have a voice in the current crisis, it risks falling into irrelevance before it begins.)

A single step is not a substitute for a much-needed broader policy overhaul. But ending the use of bullets in dealing with unarmed protestors, demonstrators and strikers would lower deaths, lower political temperatures and show that this government can do more than just talk.

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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