Who are the terrorists in Indonesia?
Who are the terrorists in Indonesia?
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Op-Ed / Asia

Who are the terrorists in Indonesia?

Conspiracy theories over the Bali bombing are rife in Indonesia.

In the aftermath of the 12 October bombing in Bali, Indonesians are convinced they have terrorists in their midst. They're just not sure who they are. Absurd, as it may seem, if talk shows and media commentaries are any indication, the most likely candidates in most Indonesians' minds are the U.S. government and the Indonesian army. Al-Qaeda is a distant third. Only these three, the thinking goes, have the expertise, the contacts, and the motivation to carry out an attack on the scale of the Bali attack.

The first theory, which has gained wide currency and not just among conservative Muslims, goes like this: The U.S. embassy issued a warning to its citizens to avoid public places in Indonesia twelve hours before the explosion. The C.I.A. picked a place that few Americans frequented. It supplied the materials for the bomb. It then tried to blame al-Qaeda and radical Islam in an effort to win support for a war against Iraq, and offered to help with the investigation as a way of infiltrating American troops into Indonesia so they can eventually establish a new foothold in Southeast Asia.

The second theory, particularly prevalent among Indonesians who live in conflict areas, suggests that the Indonesian military (Tentara Nasional Indonesia, TNI) is the culprit. The TNI has been trying since the fall of Soeharto to reassert its role in government by provoking conflict and then coming in to establish order, proponents of this theory assert. Look how the army backed the creation of Laskar Jihad, the armed militia in the Moluccas, they say, or at the involvement of the army special forces in the death of Papuan independence leader Theys Eluay. The struggle between the army and police for control of internal security has become increasingly bitter and violent in the last year, and a blast on the scale of Bali could swing support in favour of the army. Acehnese and Papuan activists are convinced that the new anti-terror decree will be used primarily against them.

The al-Qaeda theory seems to have a much smaller number of supporters for several reasons. The relentless U.S. pressure on the Indonesian government to act against Indonesian nationals linked to the shadowy Jemaah Islamiyyah network appears to have convinced many Indonesians that their own security agencies would be forced to accept the U.S. version of events. Thus when an Indonesian team returned from interviewing Umar al-Faruq, the man arrested in West Java in June this year whose startling revelations, leaked by U.S. intelligence sources to Time magazine, included a plot to kill Megawati, there was little surprise that the team's information confirmed the details in the Time article.

Likewise, many members of the liberal intelligentsia in Jakarta are worried about the arrest of Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, named by al-Faruq as a key figure in a series of bombings in Indonesia and as a close associate of Hambali, the Indonesian considered a top operative of al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia.

"All the evidence against Ba'asyir comes from people in detention," one journalist told me. "We know all about forced confessions in this country. Why should we believe any of it?"

Another man is willing to believe in an al-Qaeda presence in Indonesia but not in its involvement in the Bali bombing. "Why would al-Qaeda want to blow up Bali?" an Indonesian friend with an American PhD asked me. "They had a safe haven here at a time when things were too hot for them in Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Why wreck it all in this way?" The two sides of the popular Indonesian response - acceptance of a terrorism problem but scepticism about al-Qaeda - present some serious policy dilemmas for the Megawati government.

It will be politically difficult to use the anti-terror decree to round up terror suspects unless it can present strong evidence to the Indonesian public of their likely culpability, and yet it will be under continued pressure from Western governments, particularly the U.S. and Australia, to demonstrate determination to combat terror. The easiest way to prove determination is to make arrests; the danger is that the arrests could become, or be seen as, arbitrary.

The pressure for quick results is already leading to a restructuring of intelligence agencies. Better coordination between the police and military is highly desirable, especially with contradictory statements coming out of the two nearly every day. (On Friday morning, an army special forces spokesman announced that the identities of the bombers had been determined, whereas a police spokesman in Bali said the perpetrators were still unknown.) The danger is that the army will take the lead role and undermine all the work that has been done in the last three years to build up the police as a civilian agency responsible for internal security. The more the army benefits, the more the theory that the TNI was somehow involved in the bombings in the first place will gain credence - and the more the scepticism about an al-Qaeda role will grow.

As long as many Indonesians believe the U.S. was responsible, there will be no incentive for radical Muslims attracted to Ba'asyir-style teachings to disassociate themselves from jihadist views. The horror at the casualties in Bali is deep, and if it could be conclusively proven that a few Indonesian Muslims were involved, condemnation of those individuals and what they stand for would follow. But Western pressure on Indonesia for results just deepens the conspiracy theory and makes acceptance of Indonesian involvement all the more difficult.

The presence of so many foreign police and intelligence specialists helping with the investigation in Bali has been received thus far with more gratitude than suspicion, but the mood could easily shift. A war in Iraq in particular could ignite all the nationalist fears that in fact, the Bali bombing was only the precursor to serving a larger U.S. agenda. Before Bali, the backlash in Indonesia of a war in Iraq was probably manageable. Now, it could be much worse.

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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