Jakarta – For the umpteenth time since the two institutions broke up as part of sweeping reforms introduced to protect hard-won democracy 20 years ago, Indonesian Military (TNI) and National Police personnel have been embroiled in a clash. The latest incident, in which a group of military soldiers attacked and burned the Ciracas Police station in East Jakarta on Sunday, may not be the last if no comprehensive solution is found.
So entrenched is the animosity between members of the two forces that even a trivial matter such as eye contact could trigger a fight. In some occasions, the squabbling claimed lives, as what happened in Mamberamo Raya regency in April. The armed clash in the outlying Papua province killed three police personnel.
Jakarta Military commander Maj. Gen. Dudung Abdurachman said the Ciracas violence had been provoked by Pvt. MI, who told his friends he had been beaten by a number of police officer. During his interrogation, however, he admitted that he had gotten injured from falling off his motorcycle. The fact that the soldiers made no effort to verify the false news only shows the blind solidarity in the name of spirit of the corps.
The propensity to commit violence is dangerous not only for the conflicting parties but more importantly, for the public at large who the police and military are supposed to protect and safeguard from both domestic and outside threats. The danger lies in the fact that they have access to arms; if they can use these weapons to hurt each other, they can misuse the weapons against civilians.
Brutality, if persists, is indicative of the failure of the military and police in promoting human rights as a game changer that distinguishes them from their past. Revisiting the curriculum in military and police schools and academies is pressing to end the culture of violence.
The bitter rivalry needs settlement beyond doubt, or else it will jeopardize national stability. In an apparent bid to create a deterrence effect, Army chief Gen. Andika Perkasa has threatened not only to bring the errant soldiers to justice but also dismiss them.
Strict enforcement of the law is indeed mandatory to prevent the conflict from recurring. But this legal approach is far from ideal because the TNI has until today insisted that soldiers accused of committing crimes should stand trial in the Military Court. On the other hand, the police, like other citizens, fall under the auspices of the public court to account for the crimes they commit.
Surely the arch rivalry stems from the sweeping reform, which equally divided the labor between the police and military as institutions responsible for national security and defense, respectively. It turns out the police, due to their new powers, took over resources initially under the military's control.
The dozens of clashes between them, however, should not justify efforts to restore the old rules. It is the responsibility of the civil authority to ensure equality between the military and police in terms of welfare. More importantly, national policies should avoid overlapping authorities between the two, which in fact occur as in the case of counterterrorism measures.