3 Articles from The Economist PDF Afdrukken E-mailadres
zaterdag 08 juli 2000 01:00

The Economist
July 8th - 14th 2000
SURVEY INDONESIA: ...and, of course, order
-- Indonesia is bringing its army under discipline. Now it needs a
serious police force

THERE is a half-satisfactory explanation of how Indonesia's armed
forces came to be the way they are. If you are a poor, new-born
country consisting of 17,000 islands spread over 1.9m square
kilometres, with a huge population of assorted ethnic origin and
religious belief, how are you going to guard yourself against your
potential enemies? Indonesia's answer, when it had broken free from
the Dutch empire after 1945, was the concept its leaders called
"total people's defence".

Since Indonesia's navy could not possibly be expected to protect all
those wriggling coastlines, the armed forces were divided into a
number of separate territorial commands or Kodams (there are
currently 11 of them), each responsible for a different chunk of the
archipelago. Each command was told to build its own supply chain,
which fitted in nicely with the soldiers' taste—common among Asian
armies at the time—for enhancing a slim official budget by running
businesses of their own. So arose a system of regional "profit
centres". One officer who excelled at running his profit centre was
a young colonel in Java called Suharto; he set up partnerships with
two ethnic-Chinese businessmen, Bob Hasan and Liem Sioe Liong,
founder of the Salim Group.

The command structure made a certain amount of sense. Unfortunately,
Indonesia's officers added to it the idea of dwifungsi ("dual
function"), which inserted the armed forces into the government. A
large block of seats in parliament was reserved for military people,
and active or retired generals were given powerful places in the
cabinet. Even more perniciously, dwifungsi was applied to the
territorial-command hierarchy. This allowed the army to place
members of its "socio-political wing" alongside government officials
right down to village level. The idea was to keep in touch with
local communities, explain to folks how great it was to be
Indonesian—and deprive potential rebels of a base.

"Total people's defence" was not a bad way for a country of
Indonesia's special nature to try to face up to its enemies. It had,
however, one obvious flaw. It ignored the high risk that the enemy
would turn out to be the army itself. And this is what duly
happened. By the time Mr Suharto fell from power, his armed forces
were to a dismaying degree corrupt, calculating and divorced from
the people. They turned rape, torture, death and disappearance into
standard tools of administration. They terrorised the provinces of
Aceh, East Timor and West Papua. They shot demonstrators in Jakarta
during the anti-Suharto upheaval of 1998. They remained the most
potent threat to Indonesian democracy almost up to the moment of Mr
Wahid's election.

Kickin' brass
The generals stayed neutral in last year's parliamentary election.
But the armed forces' 38 reserved seats gave them plenty of leverage
in the fragmented new parliament, and hence in the choice of a new
president. General Wiranto, Suharto's former adjutant and his last
armed forces' commander, plainly had his eye on the vice-presidency.
Even after the army brought international criticism down on itself
by trying to block East Timor's independence, he could assemble the
various parties' leaders almost at will. In the end, though, the
generals chose not to risk causing a revolution. They decided to
back Mr Wahid and Miss Megawati for the presidency and
vice-presidency, and General Wiranto settled for a humbler job as
minister for security and politics.
The new President Wahid promptly exploited his victory. He made a
civilian, Juwono Sudarsono, the minister of defence. He gave some
new powers to the long-neglected navy and air force, thereby
demoting the army. After a couple of months he removed General
Wiranto from his ministry, citing a report on human-rights
violations in East Timor, and confounded experts in military coups
by boldly doing this when he himself was out of the country. Having
got General Wiranto out of the way, Mr Wahid then promoted some
reformist soldiers.

The other generals are falling into line. The forthcoming meeting of
the Consultative Assembly will probably strip them of their
remaining seats in parliament after the next election. They are also
talking more seriously about a reform of the territorial-command
system. The dangers of this have been seen: several well-known
generals have now brought themselves to criticise it publicly.

Mr Wahid is not yet fully in control of the armed forces. There will
be resistance if he puts any high-ranking officers on trial for the
brutalities they have authorised. The government has promised the
IMF that the generals' off-budget business activities will be
properly audited, but has so far done little about it. And the new
defence minister, Mr Juwono, points out that the generals are only
part of the problem. Middle-ranking officers must also be persuaded
to abandon their hopes of stockpiling wealth. He is even more
worried about the rank-and-file, describing them as "underfed,
underpaid, under-trained and under-loved". If the army is to clean
up the off-budget activities the soldiers live on, and stop using
postings to local government as a sort of pension scheme, it will
need more money from the budget—and the competition for that is

The missing policeman's lot
The country's even bigger security problem, though, is the absence
of anything that resembles a genuine police force. The existing
force, such as it is, has been put directly under the control of Mr
Juwono, the defence minister, which may help to get things moving in
the right direction. A new national police chief has been appointed,
to widespread nods of approval. But most policemen have no proper
training and no idea how they should respond to what is happening
around them. The result, in many parts of the country, is something
close to anarchy.
When a student was arrested in Medan recently for gambling, his
friends went to the police barracks and kidnapped several of the
policemen inside it. Elsewhere the police have stopped playing any
role whatsoever in the business of law and order. The current
procedure goes something like this. A theft is committed; a mob
forms; a suspect is nominated; the supposed culprit runs for his
life. There have been dozens of such episodes in Jakarta alone so
far this year. Some of those caught have been stabbed or beaten to
death; others burned alive.

The absence of anything like a proper police force has had its
grisliest consequences in the Moluccas, where fights between
Christians and Muslims have killed more than 2,500 people in 18
months. The hatred that causes this bloodshed is not just a matter
of religion. Some of it is the result of land disputes, some of
rivalry between sultanates; some is chiefly ethnic in origin, some
pure gang-warfare. Muslims in other parts of Indonesia who believe
that a Christian conspiracy is at work, and outsiders who claim to
see an anti-Christian jihad, are both grossly oversimplifying. What
they should join in lamenting is the virtual disappearance of
anything that can be called impartial law-enforcement. In its
absence, local people have had to arm themselves. Among the crude
home-made weapons found in one recent episode, according to the
Jakarta Post, were bombs, a bazooka, some pistols and rifles,
machetes and, just as fatal, 18 arrows.

The central government in Jakarta can be equally limp-wristed. In
April, angered by reports of Christians killing Muslims in the
Moluccas, a Muslim group called the Jihad Force assembled outside
the presidential palace with machetes and swords. A couple of
thousand of them spent a few days training themselves to use their
weapons. They then sailed from Java, reaching the Moluccas in late
May. After several attacks, in which they have killed about 200
people, they have still not been stopped.

Indonesia needs a police force worthy of the name. But even that
will not work everywhere. Consider what is happening in Aceh and
West Papua, at the far western and far eastern ends of Indonesia.
That rending noise
-- Separatists are tugging at both ends of a manifestly fragile

WHEN voters in the rest of Indonesia were choosing among 48 parties
in last year's election, Ibrahim, who lives in Aceh, was offered
only two options. Rebels of the Free Aceh Movement instructed him
and his neighbours to boycott the election. Indonesian soldiers and
policemen insisted that they turn out and vote. Afraid to defy
either side, Ibrahim plumped for his equivalent of the Third Way,
and went off to stay with his relatives in a neighbouring province.

A lot of Acehnese feel equally trapped. The fight for an independent
Aceh has been in progress, on and off, for half a century. On May
12th a three-month ceasefire negotiated between Mr Wahid's
government and the rebels came into effect, after an outburst of
violence that had killed 345 people since the beginning of the year.
But it will be very hard to turn the ceasefire, even if it lasts its
due three months, into an agreed peace.

The desire for an independent Aceh grows out of a widespread feeling
that this region is different from much of the rest of Indonesia,
and especially from "imperial" Java. For centuries the sultanate of
Aceh, which sits at the entrance to the Malacca Strait, benefited
both economically and culturally from its contact with the Muslim
traders whose ships sailed past its shores. "Mecca's verandah", as
it was called, became a major trading centre in the 17th century and
one of the most devoutly Islamic states in the region. It fought off
several great powers until, at last, it fell under Dutch rule in
1903 after a fierce 30-year war. Then, starting in the early 1950s,
the Acehnese fought a ten-year rebellion against the new Indonesia
of which they found themselves a part, and rose intermittently
against President Suharto's soldiers in the years after that.

A century after they lost their independence, most Acehnese still
have several things in common. They remain devoutly Muslim, even if
their opinions vary on things like sharia law. They are straight
talkers, easily infuriated by the Javanese, who never seem to say
what they mean. And whether they want autonomy or full independence,
and whatever they feel about the use of violence, they loathe the
Indonesian army.

Since that army is determined to stay in Aceh, President Wahid is
not going to find it easy to bring peace to the region. Some
Acehnese, to be sure, are tired of the violence. But many others are
as staunch as ever in their demand for independence: a rally in
November assembled tens of thousands of people in a province with a
population of only 4.3m.

Mr Wahid's policy is basically to promise the Acehnese everything he
can short of full independence. It is not much use talking vaguely
about autonomy, since Aceh is already one of Indonesia's two
"special autonomous regions" (the other is Yogyakarta, in central
Java). Mr Wahid has to be specific. So he is offering to let Aceh
keep a much bigger share of the money it earns from its huge
supplies of oil and gas; a law passed last year has already taken a
step in that direction. He also says that the central government
will help to reinvigorate the island port of Sabang, which was
choked off by the Suharto regime in an attempt to bring Aceh to its

More money, though, will not be enough to win the Acehnese over.
They also want clear evidence that Mr Wahid is willing and able to
bring the army under control. There are some signs of progress.

The new government's human-rights minister, Hasballah Saad, comes
from Aceh. He promises to hold the army accountable for past acts of
violence. The first small step came in May, when a military-civilian
court sentenced two dozen soldiers to prison terms of up to ten
years for killing an Islamic teacher and 56 students in a raid on a
boarding school in West Aceh. They said they were only following
orders. As they were driven away after their conviction, they sang
patriotic songs. The officers who gave them their orders have not
yet been tried.

The president's attempt to end the war in return for something less
than full independence is not necessarily doomed to failure. Many
Islamic teachers in the rural parts of Aceh, and their students, are
inclined to trust this scholarly Muslim. A lot of Aceh's women are
tired of the fighting. But plenty of other Acehnese are unwilling to
compromise. They say there is no basic difference between the new
Indonesia and the old one, and that Aceh is different from both.
They want a referendum on independence like East Timor's, nothing

Even if a majority of Acehnese can be persuaded to make peace now in
return for a generous ration of autonomy, many Indonesians worry
that in the end this will only increase their desire to go their own
entirely separate way. But the government has little choice. Its
best hope is to stop the killing for a decade or so, give the
Acehnese a chance to earn a decent living—and then see if they are
willing to remain at least loosely a part of Indonesia.

The danger of changing names
It will be just as hard to appease the people of West Papua, at the
other end of the archipelago. Until last year, West Papua—annexed by
Indonesia in 1969—had been known as Irian Jaya. The word Irian is
widely, if wrongly, believed by Indonesians to be an acronym for the
phrase meaning "Join the Republic of Indonesia Against the
Netherlands". So, when Mr Wahid approved the change of name, many
people thought he was willing to recognise West Papua's
There are several differences between West Papua and Aceh. The West
Papuans have a much higher proportion of Christians, which arguably
gives them an extra reason for wanting to leave predominantly Muslim
Indonesia. They are also Melanesians, and the overt racism they
suffer at the hands of other Indonesians may also have its effect.
But many of the province's 2m people live in scattered hill
communities, far apart and separated by forbidding mountains. Given
this fragmentation, it is hard to measure the support for

It certainly has plenty of supporters in Jayapura, the capital, and
in a handful of other towns. Much of its strength comes from the
tough-minded vigour of Theys Eluay, the unelected leader of West
Papua's independence movement. A week before a long-awaited congress
to rally support for independence, Mr Eluay was sitting in a hotel
room in Jayapura, going over the passenger list of that day's Garuda
flight to Jakarta. Mr Eluay had heard that some of his people,
bribed by the army, were heading for Jakarta to lobby against the
congress. Although Garuda is Indonesia's state airline, few people
in Jayapura can resist Mr Eluay. He was able not only to lay his
hands on the passenger list, but also to send a bunch of his
security men to prevent more than a dozen people from boarding the
flight. The same thing happened the next day.

President Wahid, who had planned to address the congress, changed
his mind at the last moment. He also said that a specific
declaration of independence would not be tolerated. However, he made
a small donation to the congress, on the ground that people should
be free to discuss politics. His ambiguity left an opening. The
congress ended on June 4th by endorsing a vague commendation of
independence, but said that its main goal was to "clarify the
history" of West Papua.

The most beloved date in that history is December 1st 1961. On that
day, though they were still under Dutch rule, the West Papuans
raised a new flag and declared their independence. Among those
watching, runs the dreamy local story, was a young man from Ghana
called Kofi Annan. Unfortunately for the Papuan patriots, the world
paid no attention. In 1963 the Dutch agreed to hand over control of
their colony to Indonesia. The handover officially took place in
1969, after a promised referendum was fixed by the Indonesians in
their own favour. Three decades later, West Papua is still part of
Indonesia—and Kofi Annan is secretary-general of the United Nations.
A lot of West Papuans would love him to drop in, for real this time,
to watch their flag go up.
Devolve, but do it right
-- The middle way between forced unity and total disintegration is
filled with potholes

ACEH and West Papua, which are growling for independence, and East
Timor, which has already broken away, have felt the Indonesian army'
s boot more than most other parts of the country. But the two
remaining growlers are different in another way, too. They are among
a small group of Indonesian provinces which put far more money into
the central government's pocket than they get back from it. Many
other provinces break roughly even. Some, such as East and West Nusa
Tenggara, would be even poorer than they are without the help they
get from the centre. These economic differences have to be added to
all the other sorts of diversity that criss-cross the map of

There is an urgent political lesson to be drawn from this. A country
like Indonesia, which consists of thousands of islands spread over
an area almost the size of the United States, and whose people are a
religious, ethnic and economic jumble, cannot possibly be governed
as a single entity. If it does not devolve, it will not work. It is
no good for Indonesian politicians to argue that the place ought to
be considered a single entity because it was born out of the old
Dutch East Indies. A country assembled by imperial force will have
to go on being held together by dictatorial force unless its
different regions are given something to persuade them that it is
worth staying together. Like many other parts of the post-cold-war
world, Indonesia must look to the concept of autonomy—of devolving
power to its constituent areas—if the cracking noise is not to grow
even louder.

Even under the Suharto dictatorship, a certain degree of flexibility
was accepted as necessary. But, dictatorships being dictatorships,
the flexibility became an instrument of corruption. Development
money, for instance, was distributed through a process which
theoretically gave local areas more responsibility but then in
practice denied it to them. Each area submitted its proposed list of
projects, but the amount of money each received depended on how many
of its projects won approval in Jakarta. Mr Suharto's friends duly
made sure the Jakarta decisions served their interests, and local
officials duly shaped their proposals to fit in with the system.

The post-Suharto government, hearing the regions' clamour for more
of everything, is trying to sort matters out. Before last year's
election the outgoing parliament passed a couple of decentralisation
laws, one giving local governments more financial autonomy, the
other giving them authority to provide services which had previously
been outside their sway. Originally, the two laws were due to take
effect in 2001, but President Wahid has speeded things up; the
handover should now take place by the end of this year.

The trouble is that the bodies to which the laws devolve these
powers are not Indonesia's 27 provinces but its 350 or so kabupaten,
or districts. The outgoing Suharto parliament presumably feared that
giving the power to potentially serious political units like the
provinces might start Indonesia down the road to becoming a federal
state, thereby diminishing the power of Jakarta. Giving it to those
pipsqueaks would be much safer.

In fact, it creates two large dangers. One is that the little
districts will not have enough competent people to use their new
powers efficiently. The non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that
have come from abroad to help Indonesia say they will try to provide
the necessary training, but the task is huge and time is short. Or
some of the civil servants working in the district might be
transferred from central to local control; the local planning
agencies, or bappedas, usually have a couple of people who know what
's what. But it is the district governments that will have to decide
this, and local patronage and local resentments could get in the

The second danger is that the districts' mayors and assemblies will
try to extract a lot of new taxes from people whose votes they don't
need: meaning people from outside their districts, who just happen
to be passing through. Gary Goodpaster, the head of the Partnership
for Economic Growth, which supervises several American aid
operations, gives the example of a five-hour drive across the South
Sulawesi peninsula in the course of which lorry-drivers were
required to stop no fewer than 20 times to pay taxes to various
authorities. The Jakarta parliament has passed a measure trying to
prevent such distortions, but the rules remain unclear and many
local governments plan to test their limits.

The Wahid government, recognising these dangers, has attempted to
limit the damage. The new laws cannot take effect without
"implementing orders". Mr Wahid's minister for regional autonomy,
Ryaas Rasyid, says the president has asked him to use these orders
as a way of handing some powers over from the districts to the
provinces of which they are part. The notion is sensible. But there
are limits to what Mr Ryaas can do in this way. The risk remains of
leaving too much power in tiny hands.

The Minahasa squeeze
As an example of what could happen, look at the trouble a subsidiary
of an American mining company, Newmont, has had with the Minahasa
district in North Sulawesi. Taking advantage of a clause in Newmont'
s contract which said that it must pay tax on anything of value,
Minahasa tried to tax the company for the "overburden"—soil, stones
and other debris—it removed in the course of digging for ore. In
fact, most of the overburden was waste. The rest was used by Newmont
for building roads as part of a voluntary community-development
scheme. At first Newmont refused, and matters got worse when a local
court then ordered the mine to be shut down. Newmont eventually
settled the dispute by agreeing to pay about $500,000 in taxes for
the overburden it had used for the roads.
Richard Ness, the head of Newmont's operations in Indonesia, says
that, although the dispute took up a lot of his time and energy, it
did have some encouraging aspects. The central government followed
things closely, and offered to lend a hand. (Mr Ness asked it to
keep out because he wanted to remain on good terms with the local
government, and because he wished to carry out the full legal
process so as to limit the danger of future attempts to twist
Newmont's contract.) And, when the local court issued its order to
close the mine, the Supreme Court immediately squashed it.

But the Minahasa business suggests that, in many places, there are
not enough local means of keeping troublemaking politicians under
control. In Jakarta, the politicians have to face a newly pugnacious
press and television and some tough NGOs. Out in the sticks, there
are fewer constraints.

One local NGO that has followed the Newmont case is Wanuata Waya
("The earth belongs to us"), run by Andry Umboh and Meidy Sumerah,
an environmental scientist and a mechanical engineer in their early
30s who teach local people things such as better fishing techniques.
Having followed the Newmont dispute closely, the two men reckon the
company can have a clear conscience.

They have examined the studies of its handling of the environment,
and are satisfied that it is currently obeying international norms.
They also agree with studies which show that small-scale local
miners do far more damage to the environment (just as, in some parts
of Indonesia, coral reefs are blasted with dynamite by local
fishermen, or carved up for building materials).

Still, Mr Umboh and Mr Sumerah are depressed about the bigger NGOs
in the area, which in their opinion "don't care about the benefits
Newmont brings to the local community". They are glad that the local
government failed in its bid to get its hands on Newmont's
community-development fund. They are not convinced that Newmont
always knows what it is doing with the money; but they trust it far
more than they trust the local authorities. The two young men are
right to be wary. If devolution is going to work properly in
Indonesia, it will have to be done in a less slapdash way than this.