Saturday, September 2, 2017

Is Indonesia embarking on a Philippines-style war on drugs?

By Dave McRae

Dave McRae is a Senior Research Fellow at the Asia Institute in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Melbourne. He is also an Associate at the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society.
Fears about a drug emergency in Indonesia have re-emerged following a record seizure of one tonne of crystal methamphetamine in July. This photo is of a 2016 seizure. Photo by Teresia May for Antara.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s hard-line rhetoric in recent weeks on the fatal shooting of drugs suspects has prompted many to question whether Indonesia is contemplating a Rodrigo Duterte-style war on drugs. Jokowi was spurred to comment by the seizure of a one tonne shipment of methamphetamine to Indonesia from Taiwan, reportedly the largest seizure in Indonesia’s history. Indonesian authorities shot dead a Chinese national during the interception.

Now the police and the military are truly firm(link is external)…. particularly against foreign drugs distributors entering Indonesia, if they resist a little bit, just shoot them immediately, as we are truly in an extreme emergency situation when it comes to narcotics,” Jokowi said on 21 July,(link is external) about a week after the seizure.

Jokowi’s comments reflect a clear upswing in fatal shootings of narcotics suspects this year, albeit not on a scale approaching the campaign of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. In the first seven months of 2017, Indonesian authorities shot dead at least 49 narcotics suspects. Another suspect died in police custody in January, with police saying they suspected a heart attack.(link is external) This is based on figures I have compiled from keyword searches of media reportage. Although imperfect, I am unaware of any comparable publicly available government data. Using similar methodology, I identified only 14 fatal shootings in 2016 and 10 fatal shootings in 2015.

Given the methodology used to compile these figures, it is likely that there have been additional shootings. For 2017, my figures match closely with a public announcement by Police Chief General Tito Karnavian on 8 May, however, that authorities had fatally shot 31 suspects(link is external). My figures show 32 deaths to that date.

Source: various Indonesian media reports

The majority of suspects fatally shot in 2017 have been Indonesian citizens, comprising 40 of 49 deaths. But foreigners are significantly over-represented among fatalities, at 8 of 49 deaths* or 16 per cent, given they comprise a tiny minority of drug arrests. Of 1,238 suspects arrested by the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) in 2016, for example, only 21 were foreign citizens, or 1.7 per cent(link is external). This over-representation is consistent with a broader trope of the Indonesian government’s “drugs emergency” rhetoric that foreign drugs criminals are destroying Indonesia’s future generations.

Inevitably, Jokowi’s comments in July raise the question of whether the sharp increase in the number of killings reflects deliberate government policy to deter narcotics crime. Certainly, hard-line rhetoric on shooting drugs suspects has been building in Indonesia for more than a year, although senior public officials have typically tread a fine line in their statements, being careful not to issue an unqualified order to kill.

Jokowi’s own statement in June 2016 on International Anti-Narcotics Day was typical, instructing police,(link is external)“Pursue them, arrest them, beat them, strike them hard! If the law allows, shoot them!” Police Chief Karnavian has similarly toed this line,(link is external) saying in January following the first five fatal shootings of the year, “Drug distributors, if you are still doing it, poisoning our nation’s children, and then you resist when you are arrested, then it will end the same way, here as well, in the morgue.”.

Even BNN Chief Budi Waseso, who has bent the line on extra-judicial killings further than most, stuck to this line when asked this week by the influential Tempo magazine about Jokowi’s statements. “The implementation is different in the Indonesia and the Philippines. In the Philippines, distributors are [just] shot directly. In Indonesia, it’s only the ones that resist officers.”

Even if such rhetoric does not amount to an explicit instruction to kill, it is not difficult to see how it could create a permissive environment for the fatal shooting of suspects.

Fatal shootings are concentrated in several provinces: North Sumatra and Jakarta account for half of all shootings, with Lampung, Aceh and West Kalimantan also showing high incidence. This concentration could reflect the fact that several of these provinces are entry points for narcotics to Indonesia, or centres of activity for the narcotics trade.

The discretion of individual police commanders might also contribute. Police in North Sumatra, for example, have provided a running tally to the media of the number of drugs suspects shot dead in their province this year. Senior police in West Kalimantan, another province with a concentration of narcotics shootings in 2017, have also favoured tough language. Inspector General Musyafak, police chief in the province before April, told the media in October 2016 that he apologised in advance if his personnel shot dead drug distributors. Police had weapons to shoot criminals, not to show off, he said, although he added they must use them to subdue suspects, not murder them.(link is external)

All incidents I have recorded resulted in only a single fatality or two suspects being shot dead. In more than one third of cases, the fatal shootings occurred well after the suspects had been arrested, when authorities took them to a secondary location to identify further suspects, or to point out where drugs and weapons were stored.

Whether at the initial point of arrest of a secondary site similar stories recur: most often the suspect is said to resist arrest or flee, often ignoring warning shots, after which police fatally shoot them. In a minority of cases, the suspects are said to have fired on police, brandished a weapon, attempted to seize a police firearm, or even to have rammed police with a vehicle.

But as Jim Della-Giacoma has previously observed in the case of police shootings more broadly in Indonesia,(link is external) many of the accounts of the shooting sit uncomfortably with the police’s own regulation governing the use of fatal force. He writes:

[Indonesian Police Chief regulation No 8 of 2009] says that ‘the use of firearms shall be allowed only if strictly necessary to preserve human life’ and ‘firearms may only be used by officers: a) when facing extraordinary circumstances; b) for self defence against threat of death and/or serious injury; c) for the defence of others against threat of death and/or serious injury.’ This is Indonesian law, taken from the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, and this is what should be used to assess police actions, wherever in the country they occur.

Moreover, much as similar scenarios recur across media reports, the feature of these cases that really stands out is the lack of independent reportage by the media beyond statements provided by the police or BNN. It is rare for reports to contain any indication that the media have investigated further. In fact, media reports often run under headlines that implicitly approve of the killing or at least play up their drama, such as “Bang, a drug dealer shot dead”. Beyond periodic reportage of critical statements by legal aid or human rights organisations, little scrutiny is applied to the rationale for these shooting deaths.

And yet, as the numbers of narcotics suspects being shot dead in Indonesia grows, there is a clear need for critical reportage to scrutinise the circumstances under which these deaths are occurring.

This article first appeared at Indonesia at Melbourne.

Rearranging the regionIs regional cooperation forum Manis the way ahead?

By: Duncan Graham

Photo: Erlinawati Graham
Professor John Blaxland sees the world differently. Particularly Southeast Asia, which he sets as the centerpoint rather than an afterthought

To help others cope with this unsettling cartography he offers a sweetener – a grouping of nations to better suit new realities than old regimes.

The globe as drawn by seafarers from afar has Indonesia straddling the Equator. The islands of the archipelago look upwards and see the looming might of China.
Below is the Great South Land, adjacent and inviting. This view is the Australian nightmare, the dread that their empty land will have famished millions tumbling down to smother a European outpost.
Blaxland’s chart squashes this fear of population shift through gravity by flattening the projection so the focus is Darwin, population around 200,000 with satellite suburbs.
The lonely little city atop Australia (the capital Canberra is almost 500 kilometers further away than Jakarta) has been hosting 2,500 US troops on six-month rotations for the past five years. The agreement behind this arrangement remains secret.

At the closest point Indonesia and Australia are just 200 kilometers apart, near enough to suggest a neighborhood watch might be in order.
Blaxland, head of the Strategic and Defense Studies Centre at the Australian National University, uses his map to glaze the idea of Manis as a regional maritime cooperation forum. The word means “sweet” in bahasa Indonesia, but here it stands for the cluster of Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and Singapore.
He urges against confusion with the 1971 Five Power Defense Arrangements - the same nations plus the UK but minus Indonesia.

“Existing forums, like Asean [aged 50] are struggling to reach consensus,” Blaxland told a seminar on Australia and Indonesia Partnerships in the Indo-Pacific held at the University of Western Australia in July.
“A smaller grouping like Manis would see problem solving more achievable for pressing issues that require regional cooperation. It would be best to start slowly, gradually generate goodwill and political momentum.
“Manis would involve collaboration with governments, universities, think tanks, NGOs and community service organizations. Matters to discuss could include police, immigration, border security, legal, judicial, environmental, intelligence, financial and other working groups.
“The groups could exchange information and share concerns. Closer engagement and sharing of experiences could generate fresh ideas.”

Blaxland is no dreamworld academic. He’s worked in the military and intelligence so knows how to chat to generals, spies and diplomats. He understands the political sensitivities, like not calling his idea an “alliance”.
“With a dose of humility on Australia’s part, and a degree of magnanimous but farsighted Indonesian inclusiveness, the scheme could be made to work,” he said.
Why include a former Dutch colony while the other proposed members have Commonwealth ties?

“Indonesia’s population and geo-strategic significance astride the maritime arteries connecting the Indian and Pacific Oceans make it the key to multilateral regional maritime cooperation.” In brief, Indonesia is now too important to ignore.

Forums thrive in the region. Many look good, bloom early then wither in breezes of bland.  Blaxland’s word is “cumbersome”.

One of the most unwieldy in title and management is the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational CrimeIts 45 members include Jordan and Iran, who have more pressing issues almost 10,000 kilometers north-west.

Manis has been driving around awhile. That it’s still finding parking space on agendas suggests the tank is full.  Blaxland keeps steering: “This was always something that would take time to get policy traction - and one that would require Indonesian buy-in.”

The first model rolled out at a 2013 meeting of Aus-CSCAP. The acronym is unpronounceable but Blaxland reckons the non-government Australian Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific is a useful informal forum for floating ideas about “political and security issues and challenges facing the region”.
The 2014 election all-change in Jakarta gave Manis a welcome nudge. New President Joko Widodo, a noted landlubber, surprised many by bringing maritime issues ashore for a policy refit.
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi explained this was to “protect Indonesia’s sovereignty … by responding firmly to any intrusions into Indonesian territory”.

Implementation involved much theatre as captured foreign fishing boats were blown up once TV crews were in place. 

The big bangs lifted the reputation of President Joko and his unconventional Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti, a former can-do entrepreneur.
Less well publicized were clashes where Indonesian patrol boats were trounced by better armed Chinese craft. Rhetoric sinks fast when one navy is underequipped.
Blaxland’s candy got another coating a fortnight after his Perth speech when diplomats from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines gathered to worry about militants. The East Asia Wilayah has been fighting for an Islamic state in Marawi.  More than 600 have reportedly been killed in continuing conflict.
The Filipino city is just 700 kilometers above Indonesia’s Manado, where the talks were held.  The envoys said they’d cooperate more closely with intelligence and law enforcement authorities, but didn’t say how.
This concerns the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC). Its July report said that “despite the calls for more regional counter-terrorism cooperation in light of the Marawi siege, there are formidable political and institutional obstacles at work, including Philippine-Malaysian distrust that inhibits information-sharing.” This refers to counter-terrorism responsibilities – police or military?
Blaxland’s group doesn’t include the Philippines. It may have to if defeated fighters retreat to nearby nations as feared by IPAC director Sidney Jones. Then it would be Manisp, which sounds less than sweet.
“So far I've briefed it [Manis] in Jakarta to some policy officials and university groups and received very positive feedback,” Blaxland told Strategic Review. “The Indonesian delegation is keen to take it further and we’re exploring a policy forum to discuss it in the next few weeks.
“I’ve been speaking on this in Malaysia and briefed some New Zealand officials on the idea.

Duncan Graham is a journalist based in East Java.

Indonesian democracy: from stagnation to regression?

For much of the past decade, observers have praised Indonesian democracy. Elections have been competitive, the country boasts a vibrant civil society, and the press enjoys far more freedom than in most Asian states.  An analytical consensus thus emerged that Indonesia’s democracy was stable and relatively liberal, with no serious existential threats on the horizon.
Events since 2014 have cast doubt on that consensus. New signs of fragility have materialised that we believe put Indonesia at risk of democratic regression. That fragility has three sources: re-emergent strands of authoritarian populism from among Indonesia’s old ruling caste, the rise of a xenophobic and sectarian brand of politics, and a sustained illiberal drift in the regulation of civil liberties.
A neo-authoritarian brand of populism emerged in 2014. Prabowo Subianto, a Suharto-era military general, ran a formidable campaign against Joko Widodo (Jokowi) in the tightly fought presidential election that year. Prabowo represented a ‘classically authoritarian-populist challenge’: he suggested that Indonesia was unsuited to Western-style democracy, and blamed ‘foreign forces’ and wealthy minorities for Indonesia’s economic woes. Prabowo lost by just 6%, bringing Indonesia within a whisper of a serious authoritarian threat. That threat hasn’t disappeared. Prabowo enjoys support from his loyal base, and most observers believe he will run in the 2019 presidential elections.
There’s been an upswing in sectarianism too. A coalition of Islamist groups and conservative Islamic organisations, backed by leading politicians, mounted a powerful campaign against Jakarta’s Christian Chinese governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok). Their efforts proved successful, with Ahok losing the election decisively before being found guilty of blasphemy and sentenced to two years in prison. The victor, Anies Baswedan, allied himself opportunistically with the sectarian campaign, as did his patron, Prabowo Subianto.
There has been much debate about the depth of public support for such campaigns. Prabowo’s narrow loss, and the success of the anti-Ahok protests, suggest a significant constituency for an illiberal brand of politics in Indonesia. Some analysts, however, are sceptical, and warn against inferring a generalised rise of anti-democratic, especially Islamist, sentiment in the electorate. But the greatest danger lies not in the existence of a constituency for illiberalism, but in the potential coalescence of that group with a reinvigorated authoritarian-populist challenge. The 2014 presidential election and the recent Islamist mobilisations indicate that such a coalition already has significant electoral clout.
We also note an increasing propensity among political leaders to craft ethnically-charged narratives about the nature of wealth distribution. Such politicians decry the growing gap between rich and poor, and suggest that rising inequality has an ethno-religious dimension, with poor Muslim masses exploited by a small but wealthy ethnic-Chinese and Christian minority. Sinophobic discourse has a long history in Indonesia; its re-emergence should ring alarm bells, given that it has in the past often led to anti-Chinese violence.
Perhaps most concerning, however, is the slow, insidious, illiberal drift in the laws and regulations governing civil liberties in Indonesia. Laws on defamation, treason and blasphemy, for example, are ripe for political manipulation. We’ve also seen a serious deterioration in the protection of minority rights, particularly for religious minorities and Indonesia’s LGBTI community. That drift began under President Yudhoyono, prompting a change in Indonesia’s Freedom House score from ‘free’ to ‘partly free’ in 2013, and has been sustained during the first half of Jokowi’s presidency.
What role has Jokowi played in Indonesia’s slow-moving democratic regression? He won office in 2014 on a largely democratic and inclusive platform, with the support of volunteers and civil society activists. Yet since coming to office, Jokowi has pursued a narrow, conservative developmentalist agenda, with little concern for democratic reform or human rights.
The president’s attempt to neutralise the perceived threat from Islamist groups is a case in point. In July, spooked by the Ahok mobilisations, Jokowi issued a regulation that enables the government to disband organisations it deems a threat to national unity or Pancasila, the state ideology. The target was Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI). Indonesia already has a law to shut down groups like HTI. But Jokowi wanted to avoid legislated checks and balances, and so designed a tool that could have come straight from an autocrat’s playbook.
Jokowi is proving to be an impatient, reactive leader. He is readily unsettled by political threats and, like many in Indonesia’s political class, seems comfortable using illiberal tools to defend his political position.
There are, no doubt, many who welcome Jokowi’s heavy-handed approach to groups like HTI, which are themselves undemocratic, illiberal and xenophobic. But it’s striking that neither President Jokowi nor other political leaders framed that approach as a defence of Indonesia’s democracy or civil liberties. Instead, they justified it as a defence of Pancasila—the same tactic used by President Suharto when cracking down on opposition.
It’s tempting to see these signs of democratic regression as isolated incidents. But we need only look at countries like the Philippines and Turkey to see how once-stable democracies can deteriorate in the hands of democratically elected leaders.
Indonesia is clearly not in the midst of a full-blown democratic breakdown. There is no coherent attack on elections, opposition parties or civic space. But we must pay attention to growing signs of fragility in one of the region’s last remaining democracies.

Indonesia - A Smoking Paradise

As Western countries place increasing pressure on the large cigarette companies
 they have now found the ‘perfect’ market....

Ross B. Taylor AM

Arrive at Indonesia’s international airport in Jakarta, and you can’t miss the number of billboards telling you that smoking is ‘part of the good life’. And if you believe the message of these large and imposing advertisements, smoking is even better if you are young and are seeking ‘fun, happiness’ and an ‘active’ life.

As western countries like Australia and the US A enforce even stronger bans and taxes on the use of tobacco products, the major manufacturers have not reformed their ways. Like paedophiles they have just moved to a newer and younger marketplace, and in this respect Indonesia has proven fertile ground.

With 250 million people, many who are young and on low incomes, and desperately in need of work, the tobacco industry has provided much needed income and job security. Today the industry employs over ten million Indonesians and puts more than US$12.5 billion annually into the economy.

With ‘only’ 73 million people smoking there exists outstanding opportunities for tobacco companies to expand their businesses by marketing cigarettes to younger people. Go to any nightclub in Jakarta and you will find plenty of young, well-dressed and good looking Indonesian girls and men promoting cigarettes with offers of free samples to anyone passing buy.

Duncan Graham, a journalist based in Malang tells of a giant billboard that promotes smoking by proudly stating,  “Never Quit”. ”And they don’t”, says Graham.

But the greatest marketing ploy has been in the pricing. Local cigarettes (called ‘Kreteks’) can be purchased for less than one dollar whilst well-known brands such as ‘Marlboro’ or ‘LA Lights’ can be bought for just A$1.90 a pack.  With massive economies-of-scale, low taxes and cheap labour, even at these prices companies can make millions of dollars profit each year. But more importantly-and strategically - they get the young people ‘hooked’ for life and thus guarantee strong demand for years to come!

The cigarettes can be bought almost anywhere by kids, young adults or anyone who wants them. This is – by every measurement- truly ‘nirvana’ for the big cigarette companies such as Philip Morris. And their smokes can be ‘enjoyed’ in restaurants, pubs, theatres without any consideration for those who do not wish to consume the poisonous fumes.

So at what cost do liberal, or no smoking, laws come to the health of Indonesians?

Statistics are not that reliable but research by Dr Sarah Barber of the Berkeley University in the USA suggests that over 400,000 Indonesians every year die as a direct result of smoking. A further 25,000 people die from passive smoking.

The impact on families as a result of these deaths and the misery and desperation cannot be measured. Indonesia’s health system is not designed to cater for such a large and growing number of smoking-related cases, so for many they simply die at home ‘with cancer’.

What is known is that approximately 11% of the family budget in Indonesia is spent on smoking compared to 2% on health and 2% on education. The amount spent on smoking is more than double that of what is spent on meat, fish and eggs for example.

As Dr Barber points out, if smoking expenditure was to be reduced, the money would not be ‘put under the bed’ as many Indonesians have very low savings rates. Any surplus money would inevitably be spent on more productive items such as food and lifestyle activities that would improve one’s health; not destroy it, whilst also assisting the overall economy.

So why doesn’t Indonesia move to either ban or at least restrict the promotion and marketing of smoking? Sadly, Indonesia - in the short term – believes it needs the cigarette industry.

For many Indonesians who are forced to live on a day-to-day basis, the concept of giving up their job and income today (Indonesia has no unemployment scheme) in return for better health in ten years time, would be met with complete cynicism and anger. And the tobacco companies know it! This is a truly captive market.

Australians have also been educated by strong and active anti-cancer lobby groups who have, thankfully, informed us of the dangers of smoking. Such groups in Indonesia, if they even did exist, would be hunted down and destroyed under the argument that they are sentencing thousands of people to unemployment and poverty.

In the meantime, the owners of the major companies manufacturing cigarettes in Indonesia, holiday in their  overseas mansions – including here in Perth - knowing that in years to come thousands of young people in their home country will suffer a terrifying and premature death, as a result of the boom in cigarette consumption, whilst leaving the dreams and hopes of their children ‘up in smoke’.

Ross Taylor is an active cancer campaigner and author of “Living Simply with Cancer” in Australia and the president of the WA-Based Indonesia Institute Inc.

August 2017