APSN Banner

Police, TNI miss the mark with reforms

Jakarta Globe - May 16, 2012

Ulma Haryanto – Between murky business practices, corruption and fighting with each other, the military and the police seem to have little time for improving their professionalism.

To avoid overlapping duties, the two institutions were officially separated in 2000 following a decree by the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), which said the military should be a defense force while police officers should take care of public security and order.

After more than a decade, however, the reform effort seems to have achieved little, if anything.


In 2011 alone, there were 1,262 complaints against the police and 181 against the military, according to the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM).

"Initially, the idea of separating them was the right thing to do, because the police are not an instrument of war or defense but a force for national security, with a duty to bring public order," said Haris Azhar, from the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras).

But as recent incidents show, several communities believe the police are not actually doing that job.

Just last week, the Salihara cultural center reported two police chiefs for bowing down to the demands of hard-liners trying to disrupt a book discussion with Canadian writer Irshad Manji, author of "Allah, Liberty and Love: The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom."

It was the latest in a string of incidents involving hard-liners, including conflicts with local church congregations and harassment of liberal groups.

Earlier this month, for instance, some 200 members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) attacked a group of residents in Solo, injuring two people while police officers appeared to stand aside.

In contrast, less than 24 hours after an FPI member was stabbed to death in Bogor, the police arrested a suspect.

The police have been criticized for lacking the courage to stop hard-liners, though authorities have denied these charges.

"When facing a social problem, especially if it is related to religious harmony or mass protests, we work with the appropriate ministry," National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Saud Usman Nasution said. "But if it is against the law, then we start the legal process."

Conflicting institutions

Analysts say the method of separating the police from the military caused problems of its own, creating reasons for jealousy that have fueled a rivalry between them.

"[After the split] the police were given a prestigious position, directly under the president, while the military is now under the [Defense] Ministry," legal analyst Bambang Widodo Umar said.

Analysts say jealousy has also flared over the police's huge budget, particularly for countering terrorism.

The police's counterterrorism unit, Densus 88, is equipped with the latest equipment, and its officers attend training sessions in far corners of the globe.

The military has tried to get involved, and with some success.

Imparsial said that when President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono issued a decree forming the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) in July 2010, the decree contained a loophole allowing the military to take part in counterterror missions.

When the BNPT became operational in 2011, it immediately gave military officers the authority to handle several jobs, from investigating suspected terrorists to telling radical preachers to tone down their sermons.

Real reform?

Regulations after Suharto's downfall also prohibited the military from taking profit from personal businesses or having political power, but on the ground, the reality is different.

Imparsial, which last year asked the Defense Ministry for information about the reform of military businesses, has criticized the government for lacking transparency.

"We think the process of [reforming] military businesses is not transparent," said Imparsial program director Al Araf. "It's very, very closed, and given that we think there is a tendency for the abuse of power or corruption."

When the Jakarta Globe submitted a similar information request, the ministry's secretary general, Lt. Gen. Eris Herryanto, said the ministry did not have any information about the reform, which he said ended in 2010. He added that there were no more military businesses.

With little information, critics say it has been hard to note any progress. "Aside from the human rights training with various NGOs, the reform in both institutions seems to have stopped," Haris of Kontras said.

The police admit that reform efforts have not gone as planned. "Every year, 200 to 500 officers who violated the rules or code of ethics are discharged," Comr. Gen. Nanan Sukarna, the National Police's deputy police chief, told state news agency Antara last week.

"Arrogance is a personal issue but it has tarnished the police's image," he continued, adding that the police are still trying to reform in order to create officers with a commitment to public service.

[With additional reporting by Farouk Arnaz, Nivell Rayda & Samantha Michaels.]