Security Law Gives Police ‘a Blank Check’ for Violence
The regulation used by the police to justify violence against protesters, which has led to a string of deaths and other abuses of power in the past few weeks, was designed for presidential security, activists said on Tuesday.
The so-called Standard Procedures to Deal With Anarchism provided the pretext for police to use violent measures, including firing live rounds at unarmed protesters, said Poengky Indarti, director of nongovernmental human rights group Imparsial.
“The standard procedures are highly vulnerable to the use of violent measures and abuse of power,” she said, adding that the law provides police “a blank check” to use armed violence under the pretext of restoring order.
Police said earlier that the procedures were issued in 2010 based on UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms but the first practical test was to counter protests during a mass rally the same year on the first anniversary of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s second term.
“We believe the procedures were adopted only to protect RI-1 [the president] from any potential danger,” Poengky said. The use of firearms should become the last option as police can still use tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets to disperse crowds, she said.
“Firearms are allowed only when the situation is out of control, for self-defense, or against dangerous criminals who attempt to flee justice,” Poengky said.
However, during the recent clashes in Mesuji, Lampung, and Bima, West Nusa Tenggara, there is no evidence indicating public resistance against police, but a number of civilians were killed.
The procedures were issued by then national police chief Bambang Hendarso Danuri.
Poengky said the existing procedures should be abolished or at least amended.
“Some specific issues must be clarified, including when officers can carry firearms and what kind of firearms and ammunition. They must be restricted to authorized officers only,” she said.
The standard procedures do not limit the officers who can carry firearms when riots occur.
The Bima and Mesuji clashes occurred because of land disputes between local residents and visiting companies and the root of this problem was the government’s land regulation that favors the private sector, said Idham Khalid, from nongovernmental group Land Reform Consortium.
In land regulation that Idham described as “capitalistic,” the government explicitly favors businesses and offers bigger authority to corporate entities to exploit the land.
“That makes it ‘reasonable’ for many companies to pay police to protect their businesses,” Idham said.
Bambang Widodo Umar, an analyst who studies the police, said police should immediately return to law enforcement that serves and protects the people, not the ruling elite.
“In Indonesia, the law belongs to those who hold power, and in practice the law is the ruler itself. It’s very unclear here,” Bambang said. “And the pattern of development refers to growth that favors investors. That’s the understanding among law enforcement officers, so it’s not surprising that police tend to side with investors.”
Unless this worrying trend is properly addressed, it’s very likely the government will face large-scale social resistance triggered by public disappointment in the police, he said.