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A Wake-up Call to Jakarta: Governance, Please
A Wake-up Call to Jakarta: Governance, Please
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Op-Ed / Asia

A Wake-up Call to Jakarta: Governance, Please

Originally published in International New York Times

In recent days we have had the Indonesian defense minister raising the possibility of a military takeover, and seen the Parliament, surrounded by demonstrators, beginning a process that could well lead to the impeachment of the country’s first really democratically-elected president, Abdurrahman Wahid.

Not much is left of the euphoria that accompanied Wahid's election in October 1999. He has given Indonesians little reason to believe that the state will protect them from corruption, chaos and violence. His supporters have been rallying in recent days, but in recent weeks anti-Wahid demonstrations have reached a size comparable to those of the last days of President Suharto.

The reasons for the disaffection are clear enough. The economy is still limping badly, with investor confidence negligible. There is no resolution in sight of the separatist conflicts in Aceh and Irian Jaya, and the Maluku communal conflict has been fueled by the security forces taking sides.

Despite rhetorical commitment, the record in bringing major human rights violators to justice has been unimpressive, with convictions in only four major cases since 1998 (and reservations widely felt about three of those). Corruption charges against Soeharto were dismissed last year, and pursuit of other key figures has idled.

The immediate issue is the president's failure to provide a convincing explanation of his involvement in a financial scandal in which his masseur obtained, and apparently divided among figures linked to Wahid, $4 million from a state food agency. A $2 million dollar gift from the sultan of Brunei intended for social welfare programs has also gone conspicuously astray.

The sums involved are small compared to the plunder of state agencies carried out during the Suharto presidency, and the funds seem more likely to have benefited Wahid’s party than him personally. But in the new reform era the public rightly expects much more of its leaders.

On the credit side, Gus Dur the president has maintained his lifelong commitment to the promotion of religious and ethnic tolerance. Political opponents are no longer detained, he has moved toward ending official discrimination against Indonesians of Chinese descent, and he encourages public debate, emphasizing that differences of opinion are normal. And his open, casual and jokey style is still personally engaging. But friends and enemies alike wish that he would behave more like his country’s president, and less like the leader of a non-governmental organization.

His public political battle will be in the parliament, where Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri holds the key to his survival. If Mr Wahid is deposed, she would automatically succeed him. But she is cautious about taking action, and the support for her inside and outside the country is lukewarm. This is hardly surprising given the available evidence about her own business and military connections and her own lack of leadership skills.

Waiting in the wings through all this, although weakened and demoralized, are the old political forces that were allied with the Suharto regime, and especially the military. Defense Minister Mohammed Mahfud has told reporters that the armed forces could seize power if politicians fail to lead the country, or if chaos or anarchy cannot be controlled.

Mahfud is a constitutional lawyer, not a general, and his statement was more likely to have been a warning to the students massed against Wahid in the streets than a direct military threat. But there is no doubt that moderate reform elements within the military are finding it ever harder to hold the line against their more nostalgic colleagues.

Mr Wahid’s guile and negotiating skills should not be discounted, but if he is forced to make concessions to more conservative elements to preserve his position – in particular, retreating from greater accountability for military crimes, and effective action against corruption – Indonesia’s situation will become even more volatile and parlous.

Indonesia should be attracting more attention than it is getting from Washington and Europe. The impeachment procedures have about four months to run their course, and that time should be used constructively by everyone with a stake in the country’s stability – and that means the whole region, as well as most of the major powers – to get some very specific messages across.

Private messages should convey that international understanding and material support will be forthcoming if Indonesia does more to help itself - gets serious about corruption, brings the military leadership under effective civilian control, brings major human rights violators to justice, delivers evenhanded security protection to communities in conflict, devises a sensitive and workable political solution to the problems in Aceh and Irian Jaya, and generally behaves like a halfway competent government.

Indonesians know that their country is close to the edge and that its leadership is badly in need of a sharp wake-up call not only internally but from the international community.

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.