Security Sector Reform

Another part of the transitional justice agenda where there has been at best mixed progress is security sector reform. This is of course another area where progress in Aceh is strongly linked to developments in the broader Indonesian context. Certainly, since the fall of the Suharto government in 1998, an historic reorientation of the military has taken place, with the institution largely withdrawing from its former participation in day-to-day management of political affairs. However, deeper institutional reforms, such as the abolition of the military’s ‘territorial structure’ which shadows the civilian administration at every level throughout the country, or the subordination of the institution to a truly civilian-dominated Ministry of Defence, have stalled.

In Aceh, which in the years of intense military operations seemed to be a bastion of unreformed military behaviour and ideology, there has also been significant progress. Under the terms of the Helsinki MoU, the military presence in Aceh was dramatically reduced, and the military function in the province was supposedly limited to external defence. Military checkpoints all but disappeared from Aceh’s roads, the military presence is far less visible than it used to be, and the police have taken over running most security affairs. The gross human rights abuses that were almost daily fare during the conflict years have ended.

Various local programs and initiatives have also been taken to push forward the Security Sector Reform agenda. For example, a parliamentary caucus for monitoring and advocacy on the implementation of the security sector reform was established, drawing together fifty elected members of parliaments representing sixteen districts in Aceh, all of whom had participated in SSR workshops run by NGOs in 2009 and 2010.42 Since February 2009, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has been running a program aiming to train so-called community police (POLMAS/Polisi Masyarakat), and has established a working group to monitor and evaluate the performance and behaviour of police officers. The ultimate goals of this project are to change the behaviour of police officers, switching them from being military-minded to community-oriented and thus to alter public perceptions toward the police.

But such efforts have so far had little impact on the underlying institutional foundations or patterns of behaviour in the security sector. Military officers retain their territorial structure and their networks of intelligence operatives throughout the province, closely monitoring political affairs and the activities of former GAM combatants, even if they relatively rarely intervene, at least openly (there are constant rumours, however, of covert intelligence operations of various kinds). As in the past, military and police officials also participate in a variety of both legal and illegal business activities, though at a less intense level than during the conflict years. There have also been occasional reports of military officers interfering in local political affairs (such as when one officer angrily ordered physical punishments for civil servants in West Aceh who, in accordance with an instruction from the governor, had flown the Indonesian flag at half mast after the death of GAM founder Hasan Tiro).43

According to a report from the local human rights organisation KontraS Aceh (2010), there are several indications that security sector reform is stalling within Aceh. These signs include criminal behaviour by security force personnel, where the police are unable or unwilling to disclose who is responsible for various crimes or take action against them.44 Similarly, members of the TNI, in the view of KontraS, frequently participate in activities that exceed their mandate as a professional military,

  • 43 Serambi Indonesia, 5 June 2010.
  • 44 For example, eight personnel of the Yon Armed 17/RC Laweung military unit beat up a businessman Tgk. Azhar on 5 February 2010 in Pidie, at http://www.theglobejournal .com/kategori/hukum/kontras-protes-warga-dianiaya-setelah-menabrak-anggota-tni .php;a high ranking officer tortured a journalist, Ahmadi in Simeuleu, for his report on illegal logging on 21 May 2010, at wartawan-aceh-dianiaya-militer; members of the marine corps tortured a man named Syahrudin and forcibly dismantled his house in Aneuk Laot village, Sabang on 21 June 2010, at al-aniaya-warga-sabang.

for instance being involved in providing security for post-tsunami reconstruction projects, or intervening in the judicial process such as following a violent incident at Alue Dua village when TNI personnel beat fourteen villagers in retribution in the aftermath of a brawl. KontraS also point out that the TNI and police were also striving to access allocations from local state budgets at both the provincial and district levels, despite the fact that such allocations are explicitly proscribed in law (as so-called vertical institutions, the security forces are supposed to be fully funded by the national budget).[1] Moreover, there has never been an official audit of military spending in Aceh, despite the frequent and longstanding allegations of participation by military officers in corruption and illegal business.

Such behaviour indicates that security sector reform has a long way to go if it is to transform Indonesia’s security agencies into truly professional organisations that are fully subordinate to civilian authority. However, it should also be pointed out that they make Aceh little different from other Indonesian provinces, where petty abuses and illicit economic activity by security personnel are also rife.

  • [1] Through 2008 approximately 22 billion rupiah was granted in local budgets to suchvertical institutions (Kontras Aceh, Annual Report, 2010).
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