Relations among Security and Law Enforcement Institutions in Indonesia

By Jansen, David | Contemporary Southeast Asia, December 2008 | Go to article overview
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Relations among Security and Law Enforcement Institutions in Indonesia


Jansen, David, Contemporary Southeast Asia


Indonesia is not often considered a state where security management is well conducted. The dominant perception appears to be that law enforcement and security institutions cooperate poorly. In part, this trend is informed by academic works on the past behaviour of security forces in some of Indonesia's troubled areas, like Ambon, Papua and Central Sulawesi, to name a few. (1) Some authors argue that in these cases, unclear boundaries of jurisdiction and poor internal command and control, frustrated efforts to coordinate security forces. However, we can perhaps question whether conflict zones provide a sound basis for our impressions of the relationships among police and military forces. Much of the best evidence that demonstrates poor inter-institutional cooperation occurs in the years after 1998, at a time of acute crisis in Indonesia and in the institutions themselves. This fact prompts us to consider how state security actors interact today when managing security problems.

Scholars contributing to the debate about security sector reform in Indonesia have offered potential explanations for why Indonesia's police and military forces do not interact well. Part of the security sector reform literature has discussed the problem of "grey areas" or a supposed lack of clarity in the job descriptions of the police and the Indonesian military. The literature also identifies another potential problem with the high autonomy between security and law enforcement actors. To the contrary however, this article finds that while agencies at the sub-national level are indeed highly autonomous, autonomy does not vitiate inter-institutional cooperation. In the case studies examined government security actors also respect one another's jurisdictional boundaries. Where inter-institutional cooperation does take place, regional government plays an important role as a facilitator. Regional government is able to use mechanisms under its own authority (particularly joint agency committees) to involve national government agencies in resolving local problems. This system in turn depends on broad consensus over the job descriptions of the different actors. Accordingly, the Indonesian police are the lead agency in combating most threats to order and stability. The police possess statutory and normative supremacy, while the military and regional government act to back up the police.

This article outlines the relations between the three law enforcement and security actors--the National Police (Polri), regional government and its own law enforcement agents, the Polisi Pamong Praja or civil service police (Pol.PP) and the territorial units of the Indonesian military (TNI)--in three district case studies in Yogyakarta. These districts are Sleman, the city municipality of Yogyakarta and Bantul. This article begins with an examination of the historical development of these institutions, highlighting in particular the integration and separation of the police from the Indonesian military. This history provides a basis for understanding how the police have become the lead agency in managing security today. We then review some of the reasons for the widespread perception that security institutions in Indonesia have problematic relations. Finally we examine the data from the case studies that outlines the existence of inter-institutional, cooperation.

It is acknowledged, however, that this article is not the last word on the behaviour of security and law enforcement agencies in Indonesia. Other sources have investigated many negative practices perpetrated by such actors, ranging from corruption to abuses of human rights. This article does not, for example, touch on one of the other probing questions on the topic--competition in the black economy--as this is something rarely seen in the case studies. The purpose of this article therefore is not to deny the existence of serious misdeeds by security actors. Rather this article seeks to focus on one specific part of the picture: how state security actors inter-relate in managing security.

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