The Perils of Private Security in Indonesia: Guards and Militias on Bali and Lombok
The Perils of Private Security in Indonesia: Guards and Militias on Bali and Lombok
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Report 67 / Asia

The Perils of Private Security in Indonesia: Guards and Militias on Bali and Lombok

The devolution of authority over some police functions to civilian auxiliaries and private security organisations should be a source of concern to those concerned about police reform in Indonesia.

Executive Summary

The devolution of authority over some police functions to civilian auxiliaries and private security organisations should be a source of concern to those concerned about police reform in Indonesia. While much donor aid is going into community policing, the trend in parts of Indonesia seems to be to allow local civilian groups, untrained and unaccountable, to provide protection or fight crime instead of the police. The trend is worrisome under any circumstances, but particularly so given political tensions in the lead-up to the 2004 elections.

The dependence on civilian security groups is the product of three factors:

  • the perceived breakdown in law and order following the collapse of the Soeharto government in 1998, combined with general distrust of the police, which has led in many parts of Indonesia to vigilantism and a demand for protection from private groups;
  • a massive decentralisation program that has given far more political and economic power to local government, particularly at the sub-provincial level; and
  • a shortage of police to cope with post-Soeharto problems, particularly after the formal separation of the police from the armed forces in 1999.

This report focuses on civilian groups on the neighbouring islands of Bali and Lombok.

In Bali, traditional ritual guards – pecalang – have taken on both a security role, as a police partner, and a political role, as the protectors of President Megawati Soekarnoputri’s party, the PDI-P. But as an ethnically Balinese force at a time of growing anti-migrant sentiment on Bali, the pecalang may prove to be a liability in maintaining law and order.

In Lombok, just east of Bali, traditional religious leaders – tuan guru – have acquired their own private militias – pam swakarsa – the size of which is an indication of an individual’s mass following. As support from tuan guru is essential for anyone with political aspirations on the island, these militias have frequently been turned into protection forces for candidates. They are even more problematic when they also take on, as they tend to do, a crime-fighting role in the absence of an effective police force.

In both Bali and Lombok, following the fall of Soeharto in 1998, these groups were welcomed as part of a broader decentralisation program to reduce the role of the military in providing internal security. The public perception was that they were empowering local residents to protect their villages from crime and infiltration by political provocateurs. Over five years, however, they have become increasingly involved in extortion and violence to the detriment of legal and political reform in both provinces. While their standing has ebbed and flowed, they are likely to gain in influence in the run up to the 2004 elections as political parties rely on them to help with their mass mobilisation campaigns.

Jakarta/Brussels, 7 November 2003

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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