Qaida in Indonesia? The Evidence Doesn't Support Worries
Qaida in Indonesia? The Evidence Doesn't Support Worries
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Op-Ed / Asia

Qaida in Indonesia? The Evidence Doesn't Support Worries

Alarmist reports about Osama bin Laden's terrorist network in Indonesia have appeared in the international press. It is of course possible that some individuals have been recruited secretly by bin Laden's Qaida organization. It is probable that radical Islamic groups have received financial support from Qaida. But evidence is lacking to show that such links have decisively influenced their behavior.

There is speculation that bin Laden's agents may have helped to organize anti-American demonstrations after the U.S. attack on Afghanistan began. But it is hard to believe that Indonesia's radical Islamic organizations needed outside such assistance. Nor was Afghan intelligence needed to identify McDonald's as a suitable target.

Indonesia's two most prominent radical Islamic organizations, the Front to Defend Islam and the Laskar Jihad, were reported recently to have received money, men and arms from bin Laden's group and its allies, but no evidence was presented.

Founded in 1998, the Front until now has been occupied mainly with launching raids on bars, massage parlors, karaoke lounges and gambling dens in Jakarta. Many of its leaders are Indonesians of Arab descent and could perhaps be mistaken for foreign Arabs. On raids, white-robed members are usually armed with long sticks that are not normally used, as the patrons of these establishments usually make quick exits.

Police have never charged Front members with offenses arising from these raids, probably because the attacks remind proprietors of their vulnerability and therefore encourage them to provide protection money to the police.

The Front has now taken the lead in threatening to "sweep" Americans out of Indonesia. Yet its capacity to carry out its threats is very limited. Thus the activities of the group so far are not of the type which suggest that it has fallen under the control of a sophisticated international network.

Laskar Jihad's affiliation with the Qaida network must also be doubted, in view of the openly contemptuous attitude of its leader toward bin Laden, whom he accuses of rebellion against Saudi Arabia, a state which applies Islamic law. The group has vigorously condemned the U.S. attack on Afghanistan, but it has not been in the forefront of the current anti-American demonstrations.

Laskar Jihad was founded in early 2000 when Muslims were under Christian attack in parts of the Moluccan Islands. Several thousand Laskar Jihad fighters were sent to the Moluccas, where, backed by elements in the Indonesian military, they gained the upper hand over Christian forces. But in the last year, Laskar Jihad militants have been contained by firm military action, and the intensity of fighting has declined considerably.

It was reported recently that Arabs, Afghans or Pakistanis had been seen arriving in the Moluccas. In view of the leader's condemnation of bin Laden, it seems unlikely that they were sent by Qaida.

Other militant groups are also engaged in protesting against the United States and threatening to expel Americans and citizens of allied countries from Indonesia. Several have begun registering volunteers to be sent to Afghanistan.

Indonesia's radical Muslim organizations represent only a tiny proportion of the population of 210 million. Nevertheless, the outrage expressed by the radicals against the United States is widely shared by the moderate Muslim majority, as well as by secular groups. They accuse America of having double standards or fighting terrorism with terrorism.

This has created a dilemma for the government of President Megawati Sukarnoputri. It has pledged to support international action against terrorism but does not want to be seen as supporting a U.S. attack on a Muslim country and the inevitable civilian casualties. Further, the government desperately needs U.S. assistance to restore an economy that has still not recovered from the 1997 financial crisis.

The current demonstrations, which have rarely involved more than a thousand demonstrators, are not in themselves a serious threat to the government. But in a context where Indonesia's democratic transformation is being accompanied by a crisis of lawlessness, it is feared that anti-foreign sentiment could prejudice prospects of economic recovery.

Little could do more harm to the government's efforts to persuade investors to return to Indonesia than attacks on Western property or isolated physical assaults on Westerners.

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.

Subscribe to Crisis Group’s Email Updates

Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.