Will Indonesia seize its chance?
Will Indonesia seize its chance?
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Op-Ed / Asia

Will Indonesia seize its chance?

The tsunami disaster that struck Aceh could change the dynamics of the long-running conflict there between government forces and pro-independence fighters - but only if the relief effort is well handled. If it isn't, resentment of Acehnese toward the central government could increase, and we could all be back to square one.

Aceh has a proud history of resisting outside rule. It held out longer against the colonial administration than any other part of the old Dutch East Indies. After enthusiastically joining the war of independence from the Netherlands, it embarked on armed rebellion in the early 1950s because Jakarta failed to deliver on promises to give it special status.

The current phase of the conflict began with the creation of the Free Aceh Movement - Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (Gam) - in 1976. It will not lead to negotiations with the rebels, because the military is... convinced that talking is a sign of weaknessBy May 2003, when negotiations between Gam and the government broke down and the government declared martial law, Gam was thought to have about 5,000 armed fighters.

Last September, the Indonesian military claimed that since martial law, it had killed 2,879 Gam members, arrested 1,798 and accepted the surrender of 1,954. Not all of these would have been armed regulars - indeed, it is likely that many of those killed were not Gam as alleged - but probably should be added to the official tally of some 600 civilians killed.

Few figures on the war are verifiable, and few claims can be taken at face value.

The general sense was that during almost a year and a half of intensive counterinsurgency operations, some 30,000 security forces had pushed Gam back into the hills, dealt a severe blow to the lower ranks of the organization, but left the leadership largely intact.

The tsunami hit only a few months into the presidency of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who promised during his campaign to look for non-military solutions to Aceh. But he put no new ideas on the table and, in November, he extended the state of emergency in Aceh for another six months. When the waves struck, Aceh had been closed to most foreign organizations and the international media for 18 months.

The relief and reconstruction efforts now underway will help keep Aceh open, and this in turn will likely lead to pressure for an end to the emergency.

It will not lead to negotiations with the rebels, because the military is dead set against the idea, convinced that talking is a sign of weakness, that it gives Gam legitimacy that it does not deserve, and that it would undo all its efforts to crush the insurgency by force. Can military operations and a state of emergency co-exist with a huge international relief effort without running into serious friction? If the Indonesian military continue to work alongside relief agencies and cannot separate its humanitarian and counterinsurgency roles, it could undermine what should be the apolitical nature of humanitarian relief. Does the same person who helps construct new housing monitor the inhabitants and create new fears?

There is less of a Gam presence in the Meulaboh area on the west coast than on the east, but Gam is never very far from the main road linking the cities of Banda Aceh and Medan, a vital artery for overland relief deliveries. The first signs of such friction could produce two very different outcomes: more international pressure on the Indonesian government and Gam for a de facto ceasefire, or more restrictions on the agencies, hampering their efforts.

The military and other government agencies need also to understand how much depends on smooth aid flows. In many parts of Aceh, dissatisfaction with the government tends to lead to support for Gam, despite the latter's none-too-stellar record on human rights.

If the government does not get in place a smooth machine for delivering aid, we are going to have anger at Jakarta, and in some areas, a new rationale for recruitment into the insurgency. The problem is that the same old government institutions, mired in corruption, incompetence and inertia, have been mobilized for a task that is larger than they have ever had to handle before, and it is not clear that they are up to the job.

This disaster has created opportunities for conflict resolution. The question is whether anyone will seize them.

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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