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Priorities for a GAM-Led Government in Aceh
Priorities for a GAM-Led Government in Aceh
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Op-Ed / Asia

Priorities for a GAM-Led Government in Aceh

Originally published in The Jakarta Post

Being spectacularly and publicly wrong, as I was on the local elections in Aceh, is always a humbling experience. I thought the split in the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) leadership would prove more damaging; I thought the money and machinery of the old elite would have more influence; and I underestimated the strength of GAM support.

It is therefore with some trepidation that I make any pronouncements about the future of Aceh. But after Dec. 11, a few things seem clear:

The GAM victories at the provincial and district levels on balance strengthen the peace process; they also put GAM in a strong position for the 2009 parliamentary elections.

As governor, Irwandi Yusuf will give priority to generating jobs, attracting investment and speeding up reconstruction, but he will have to struggle to avoid being pulled in all directions.

Working out a modus vivendi with the security forces may be less difficult than might appear at first glance.

One of the biggest challenges to newly elected GAM officials will be rising above a political culture of corruption, patronage and bureaucratic lethargy.

It's both easy and misleading to look at the election results and say that GAM achieved more in 18 months of peace than it did in 30 years of war. It was the longed armed struggle that made GAM a serious negotiating partner; the Indonesian government would have had no reason to sit down at the table in Helsinki with a minor gadfly. In many areas of Aceh, GAM took credit for the hugely popular peace, but if villagers heard only one side of the story, it was partly because government spokesmen rarely ventured very far afield.

But GAM's triumph at the polls should prove to any doubters in its own ranks that accepting the Helsinki offer - acknowledgment of Indonesian sovereignty in exchange for political participation and autonomy was the right move. Does it mean that all aspirations for independence have disappeared? Of course not, any more than turning over the agreed number of weapons meant that GAM no longer had guns. But just as the issue of leftover guns became pointless as the peace process moved forward, the independence dream could steadily recede if a genuinely autonomous GAM-led government succeeds in producing concrete benefits for the Acehnese population.

GAM members in executive positions are not going to be able to do this alone: they need sympathetic legislatures, particularly at the province level. The governor has no veto power, and while legislators can force their own agenda on an unwilling executive, the latter can only wheedle, cajole, make deals - and sweeten the pot. It is therefore all the more important for GAM to get a political party up and running to try and gain control of the provincial legislature in the 2009 elections. If it does as well then as it did on Dec. 11, it then will have the wherewithal not only to develop and push through a legislative agenda but also perhaps to test the limits of autonomy. In the short term, though, GAM will have a hard enough time trying to meet the expectations of its members and master the tools of governing before even thinking about major legislative initiatives.

Irwandi has made it clear in all post-election interviews that he will focus on improving the economic welfare of Aceh's poor, particularly farmers and fishers, and on upgrading public services. In his view the first depends in part on direct access of Acehnese to international commodity markets, without going through Medan-based middlemen. Improving port facilities, fixing roads, facilitating transportation links between Aceh and Malaysia, including direct Banda Aceh-Kuala Lumpur flights, getting abandoned palm oil plantations working again, attracting investment for joint ventures in agribusiness - all of this could be part of the medium to long-term picture.

But the immediate issue will be trying to speed up reconstruction work, addressing local complaints about the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency (BRR), improving or phasing out the Aceh Reintegration Agency (BRA). If Irwandi is allowed any honeymoon at all, squabbles over reintegration payments to conflict victims or unfinished housing for tsunami victims could end it.

On the cultural side, we may see a GAM-led government devote some attention to the writing of new history textbooks for Acehnese school children and greater use of the Acehnese language.

The governor-elect is a consummate pragmatist, and is not about to alienate any group whose support he may need later - for example, Aceh's ulema, the Islamic religious scholars. It means neither Irwandi nor other GAM leaders are likely to make any move to roll back the application of Islamic law, although they might try to slow its further extension into the criminal justice realm. He is also not likely to make any major push on the sensitive issue of dealing with past human rights abuses.

Members of the Indonesian Military (TNI) cautiously welcomed the elections in Aceh, but they have to be unhappy with the results. Local commanders we interviewed before the election made no secret of their conviction that GAM had not given up its goal of independence. Several conservative nationalists, military and non-military, suggested that GAM immediately dissolve itself to prove that it is loyal to the Indonesian unitary state. Harping on such pro forma acts, like demanding loyalty oaths from released GAM prisoners, serve no purpose. GAM members took part in an election under Indonesian law and will be working with Indonesian institutions as they govern; they should not be asked for proof of loyalty, as if they were all closet traitors.

The fact is that GAM is not likely to run into serious problems with the TNI unless it challenges its economic interests. There is a history of mutual accommodation on this front between GAM and the TNI during wartime; will it be possible during peacetime as well? This is one area, among many, where whatever desire Irwandi may have for clean government may run afoul of realities on the ground. A World Bank-sponsored study showed the amount of money truckers have to pay driving from Medan to Aceh, and much of that is collected by military and police. If GAM could end extortion by security forces (and by its own members, though on a lesser scale), it could probably sew up local elections for years to come.

It will be interesting to see how Irwandi will address the issue of police and how high a priority he will make police reform. There is certainly scope under the Aceh Government Law No. 11/2006 for expanding local recruitment and making training more Aceh-centric. A GAM-led government could make a signal contribution to security sector reform more generally by changing the way the police work, not just to ensure that they are less corrupt and abusive, but that they spend more of their time on actual policing as opposed to attending ceremonial functions.

The vote for GAM candidates represents a deep desire for change, but whatever the intentions of Irwandi and other newly elected officials, they are likely to immediately get bogged down by the prevailing political culture. Past GAM supporters, potential political allies, contractors and others will be swarming around like flies to honey, looking to benefit from the new administration. How to keep relatively clean while at the same time building a political base for 2009? It won't be easy, and some patronage politics is inevitable. But inviting some of Aceh's anti-corruption NGOs to monitor allocation of government contracts might be a start.

The desire of Irwandi and his colleagues to improve public services is going to run up against a lethargic, bloated and unproductive bureaucracy.a problem that goes well beyond Aceh, but a GAM-led administration will need all the help it can get. Many of Aceh's best and brightest are now working for international NGOs, often at salaries far above what any Acehnese civil servant could make in his or her wildest dreams. If Irwandi can appeal to their idealism and attract some of them back into government, he would be performing a signal service. (His own work ethic is unquestioned - after the Helsinki accords, he was putting in 18-hour days running the GAM office trying to respond to all the problems his members were having, with very little administrative backup).

In a pre-election report on Aceh, we wrote, might not be a bad thing for GAM to win a few district offices but lose the governorship. Losers in democratic elections can escape responsibility for the mistakes and missteps of the victors. By 2009, if a popularly elected gubernatorial team does not deliver greater security and prosperity, the audience for an alternative GAM platform will increase." Now the tables are turned, but the basic lesson remains the same: GAM will have to produce results. More power to them.

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.