Poso was not unique in Indonesia in its demographic split, economic competition, and political struggle. The fights between urban youth from different neighborhoods that sparked fighting in the early phases are also extremely common. What put Poso in the unenviable company of long-running conflicts in Maluku and Central Kalimantan was the government's failure to protect the basic rights of the local population and prevent the conflict from escalating over four years. The root problems can and must be addressed, but they will remain a factor in modern Indonesia for the foreseeable future. Therefore, it is critical to understand and reverse the failures of government officials, security forces, and the courts to reduce the conflict in Poso.
Accusations of direct involvement by the military and police take two forms: either that the military has fomented violence to undermine the civilian government and to further its economic interests, or that Christians and Muslims within the armed forces have given training, support, or weapons to the different factions. There is less evidence of direct involvement in the conflict by security forces in Poso than in Maluku. There are several incidents of military involvement detailed by partisan sources that Human Rights Watch could not confirm. For example, Christians circulated photographs of an empty bag of army ammunition, said to have been found after a battle with Muslim civilians in Seipei in November 2001. In another example, Muslims identified a list of sixteen members of the District Military Command in Poso they suspected of involvement in the conflict through participation in attacks, or by supplying ammunition, training, or information to the Christian fighters.172 It is also widely believed that much of the training of fighters was by retired Christian and Muslim military officers. As recently as October 2002, a man identified as a Jakartan Muslim was arrested in the port of Poso unloading 2,800 rounds of ammunition still wrapped in their packaging from PT Pindad, the state-owned weapons producer in Bandung.173
The perception of bias by security forces is reinforced by their record of failing to protect vulnerable communities. There is widespread conviction among Muslims that local police and military turned a blind eye to the Kilo Nine killings of May 2000, while Christians point to the withdrawal of troops from villages in the November 2001 attacks. The Muslim legal advocacy team criticized sweeping for arms because they said security forces did not act fairly. They even characterized the post-Malino conflict as no longer between Muslim civilians and Christian civilians, but between Muslim civilians and Christian members of the security forces.
In response to an article in Jane's Intelligence Review, the Indonesian army issued a statement that they had examined army involvement in Poso but found no significant evidence of bias, or selling guns and ammunition. To support its assertion of neutrality, the statement noted that violence increased after the army reduced its presence in May 2002.174 In mid-September 2002, TNI commander Gen. Endriartono Sutarto again denied that the military was fomenting regional violence in order to maintain political power: "If we wanted to cling to power, we don't have to do it by resorting to such methods. We would have just used our weapons. We have enough weapons, even though they are obsolete... Admittedly we could engineer anything. But it would be weak, because our budget is low." Despite this mixed message, General Endriartono went on to assert that TNI accepts the decisions of the civilian government.175
While bias is difficult to prove, there were credible reports of serious human rights abuses against civilians. In some of the incidents, the motive of the abuse may have been retribution for a previous casualty rather than a close allegiance to one side of the conflict. The arbitrary arrest, detention, torture, and possible summary executions of Muslim civilians in the Mapane and Toyado incidents of late 2001 created bitter feelings in the Muslim community. Some human rights abuses that are widespread through Indonesia, such as revenge attacks after a member of a military or police unit is injured or firing live ammunition into a crowd, took on different meaning in the Poso context. After Brimob fired on a Muslim crowd on March 17, 2000, killing three, a joint statement by Muslim student and social organizations asserted that the Muslim Brimob officers had fired into the air while the Christian Brimob officers fired into the crowd.176
The story in Poso is primarily one of inadequate and ineffective government response. Fighters from other villages and towns, and later from other islands, were allowed to enter the conflict areas freely. There were often delays in sending additional troops, and sustained attacks on villages by both sides lasting several days were allowed to proceed unchecked. It should be acknowledged that both sides openly battled security forces at different times, and several police officers and soldiers were killed in the fighting. However, the failure to prevent, contain, or end outbreaks of violence clearly requires improvements in performance, as well as strategies for and commitment to ensuring the security of the civilian population.
Early in the conflict small interventions such as roadblocks to prevent truckloads of fighters arriving from Palu, Parigi, Ampana, or Tentena would have helped confine the problems. In fact, Muslim women and children reportedly used this tactic against the security forces themselves in the November 2001 attacks.
The second phase was addressed mainly by troops from Poso or Palu: Poso Police, Brimob from Palu, and soldiers stationed in Poso. As the conflict grew to involve large numbers of fighters and simultaneous outbreaks, it became harder to respond. The third phase saw an increase in the size of mobs, but only four companies of police were sent from Palu, where the Koran reading contest attended by the president and vice-president required manpower.
The report by Muslim academics on the military role identified a problem of delays in deployment. During the extreme violence of the third phase, they note that from the time of a request from the district on May 28, 2000, until deployment of 1,500 troops there was a delay of more than two weeks. They noted that the police were slow to ask for help for prestige reasons, and that once requested, the procedures were both cumbersome and poorly followed.
There are many examples where as soon as security forces arrived, fighting ceased as one or both sides fled, sometimes after many hours of fighting (e.g. at Bridge II on November 10, 2001.)177 This raises the question of why battles were allowed to rage for hours or even days. During the third phase some Muslim communities were forcibly marched over several days and many kilometers by Christian attackers with no sign of the police. In November 2001 the Muslim attacks advanced village by village over several days with no effective response. According to both Muslim and Christian accounts of these incidents, police and military units pulled out and allowed the Muslims to advance.
Clashes in the fourth phase had a typical form. Rumors of an impending attack led to the massing of large numbers of combatants over several hours, some from other areas, before a "pre-emptive" attack began. Given the predictability of this form of violence, the NGO LPS-HAM observed a failure of the police to address the violence or take preventive action. They noted that the police did not make use of the numerous witnesses among the victims to carry out a meaningful investigation afterwards. The director of the NGO concluded, "Both the local administration and security authorities are not committed to creating peace and enforcing the law in an attempt to protect local people from the bloodshed."178 The failure to protect victims on both sides helped prolong and deepen the conflicts as each attack brought new grievances and raised the likelihood of a revenge attack. The NGO described the violence of 2001 almost entirely as revenge attacks from aggrieved communities.
The failure to protect communities also legitimized extremists on both sides. A. L. Lateka, considered one of the leaders of the red fighters until his death in June 2000, outlined his demands in a controversial letter to the Human Rights Commission in which he regretted the failure of security forces to stop the violence, arrest suspected provocateurs, or act impartially.179 Laskar Jihad was well received in July 2001 by many in the Muslim community due to a recent surge in attacks on Muslims. According to a Muslim religious leader in Palu, "Laskar Jihad wants to help Muslims so they are not massacred. We had no faith in the security forces to protect us. There were two companies six kilometers away from Kilo Nine and they did nothing."180
Poor coordination between the army and the police
The underlying tension between the military and police in Indonesia escalated with the formal separation of the two institutions in 1999. Domestic security is formally the responsibility of police, but the military is better trained and equipped, and is not eager to relinquish authority. Combined with competition over economic opportunities, these tensions have produced direct confrontations in Papua, East Java, North Sumatra, and especially Maluku.
Although Central Sulawesi has not seen widespread conflict between the branches, poor coordination may have been an obstacle to conflict prevention. The Straits Times quoted an unnamed general disparaging the police performance in Poso: "The police are obviously scared because they think it is their exclusive domain to act, but like in other instances, they have made a mess of things."181
The army's first efforts were termed Operation Cinta Damai, while the Police carried out a series of operations named Sadar Maleo. In these operations the "non-organic" army units and Brimob from outside the area are nominally put under the operational command (BKO or Bawah Kendali Operasi). But at one point the provincial police chief said he didn't know what Operation Cinta Damai was and never received a letter on the BKO status. The result was poor coordination and even reports of rivalry between branches, such as in the capturing of Tibo and his two codefendants.182
A new more integrated effort began in December 2001, just prior to the Malino accords, described as a Security Restoration Operation (Operasi Pemulihan Keamanan). Two battalions each of army and police were given the four sequential tasks of stopping the fighting, sweeping for weapons and people that did not belong in Poso, implementing a period of law enforcement, and then supporting rehabilitation and reconciliation. This sequence was later included in the terms of the Malino Declaration, reinforcing the perception that the declaration was a local commitment to existing government operations.
Better coordination between the branches would help. But both branches have demonstrated fundamental weaknesses in dealing with situations of conflict. And until the tensions between the two institutions are resolved and effective civilian control is established, administrative improvements will have little effect.
The failure of police and military to prevent violence is only one part of the breakdown of order in Central Sulawesi. The vast majority of crimes went entirely unpunished and seemingly uninvestigated. In the rare cases when arrests were made, the legal processes that should have ameliorated the problem often made it worse. The weakness of the justice system and the inconsistent application of the criminal law allowed members of both groups to claim unfair treatment by the courts.
After the first phase, one prominent member of each side was prosecuted. The Protestant Herman Parimo received a long sentence, while the Muslim Agfar Patanga got only a few months. However Parimo was said to have led an attack, while Patanga was charged with circulating the letters that incited violence. Both sides complained that the other "intellectual actors" were going unpunished, and there was also little effort to prosecute perpetrators of the many acts of violence.
The second phase's violence in April 2000 broke out while Agfar Patanga and another Muslim figure charged with corruption were on trial. According to one source, mobs actually entered the courthouse and destroyed documents, raising suspicions that the main purpose of the violence was to obstruct the prosecutions.
When the third phase broke out Agfar Patanga's case had not yet been resolved and none of the alleged provocateurs had been arrested. These failures of the justice system allowed both sides to feel unprotected, and encouraged extremists to justify actions of violent retribution.183 Based on statements and banners, some of the attacks by Christians in the third phase are thought to have been vigilante-style revenge after the failure to arrest Muslims responsible for the violence. The alleged targets of the ninja groups were Muslims responsible for the previous two phases who had not been arrested by police.184 The legal counsel for the survivors of Kilo Nine was clear: "If the police had arrested those responsible for the riots in December 1998, we wouldn't have had the riots in April 2000. If they had arrested the provocateurs in April we wouldn't have had the riots in May."185
The Tibo trial of early 2001 demonstrates the deep mistrust of the judicial process by both sides. Christians point to the atmosphere of intimidation and the unbelievable witness testimony. Muslims raise the sixteen names as an example of the failure to apprehend the "intellectual actors." Prominent figures Patiro and Bungkundapu were reportedly questioned and released, and three others on Tibo's list were eventually sentenced to short terms on unrelated charges. While it is not certain that all the names mentioned were in fact culpable, the lack of public information about the investigation process, including the legal status of those who were questioned, increased suspicion and frustration on both sides.
Looking at the overall record of prosecutions, both sides claim to be treated unfairly, mainly with regard to sentencing. Christians claim they have received higher sentences, ranging from the death penalty for Tibo to sentences of one to two years for weapons possession. Most of the weapons charges were made against 132 people detained near Pendolo by troops under Operation Cinta Damai. Eighty were eventually charged under the 1951 emergency law. Even within this case, defendants before the same judge received sentences ranging from one to two years for the same offense. One defense lawyer described variations in other cases, with one defendant receiving seven months for possessing 5,000 bullets while another received three years for a single bullet.186
Tajwin Ibrahim of the Muslim Paralegals Association in Palu estimated there had been one hundred Muslims detained, most of them already sentenced and released after serving time. Human Rights Watch has not seen information on arrests beyond the forty-three in the Mapane case, the closest parallel to the large Christian weapons arrests. In both cases an armed group was apprehended while heading towards a clash. But the Mapane case was tainted by the mistreatment of the Muslim defendants, who successfully won their release from detention in December 2001. Christians were frustrated at the different outcomes in the two cases, many believing the Muslims were released for the end of Ramadan.
Lack of faith in the justice system is widespread in Indonesia, and many Muslim and Christian advocates attributed the discrepancies to corruption rather than bias alone. In July 2002, visiting U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Param Cumaraswamy told the press that the situation in Indonesia was worse than he had thought, calling corruption "endemic." The same week, a Jakarta NGO called Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW) issued a report detailing bribery and influence at every level of the judicial process. The ICW's year-long study concluded, "After years of letting corruption spread, it has become systemic... from the police, court administrators, lawyers, prosecutors, to judges and prison guards."187
In addition to the different treatment for similar crimes, repeated cycles of security operations in which "socialization" was followed by voluntary handovers and then sweepings meant that the same violation could be overlooked at one time or grounds for arrest at another. This made it easy for both sides to point to members of the other group who were allowed to carry weapons or escape arrest while members of their own side were detained. Many crimes have not been prosecuted at all, and where prosecutions do take place there is inadequate information provided to the public, particularly in those cases involving police or military. As early as August 2000 the press reported that twenty-nine soldiers and fifteen police had been arrested by military police, but lack of information on the outcome of such cases was a source of frustration.188
After security and legal failures, the government administration at the local and national levels accounts for the third element of inadequate response. Prior to the Malino declaration Jakarta largely ignored the conflict. The main exception, the August 2000 visit of President Wahid, was a formulaic traditional ceremony rather than meaningful dialogue. At the provincial and district levels, weak democratic structures played a role not just in generating the conflict, as discussed above, but also in its perpetuation.
The failure to help displaced persons return or rebuild was cited as one source of the prolonged conflict. A leading Muslim figure in Palu told Human Rights Watch: "If the government wasn't rotten this wouldn't have happened. If the injured parties had been rehabilitated, this would have stopped after the first phase. But officials were just looking after their own business, in Jakarta and here, too."189
The provincial and district governments created a series of ineffective reconciliation efforts prior to Malino. Most were criticized for failing to involve local community, religious, and traditional leaders in a meaningful way. The first three phases were largely addressed by the standard tactic of calling traditional leaders together for an agreement. For example, the "Rujuk Sintuwu Maroso" Team was made up of traditional leaders after the peace agreement of August 2000. This effort involved dialogue and joint visits to sites of prior conflict. However, the limited focus on traditional leaders and the deep-seated mistrust limited its effectiveness.
The fourth phase saw ineffective teams of provincial figures from Palu, not stakeholders in Poso. For example, the Reconciliation Team created in 2001 under Vice-Governor Rully Lamadjido was criticized as ineffective, top-down, and a waste of time and money by provincial assembly members and others.190
A joint team of provincial officials was sent to Poso to look into root causes and collect data on property left behind by displaced persons. The chair of the reconciliation team, Colonel Gumyadi, later told the Singapore Times that he abandoned efforts by mid-October 2001, blaming security forces for their failure to disarm the combatants.191 A member told Human Rights Watch that the team was considered a failure: underfunded, bombed in Mapane, thrown out of Poso, and yelled at in Tentena. He was unable to recall the names of all six members.192
As with the courts and the security forces, the weakness of local government efforts is a problem in much of Indonesia. In Central Sulawesi, where these institutions were badly needed to establish a level of security and accountability, this weakness had tragic consequences.
174 "Indonesian Army Issues Statement Refuting Allegations Of Taking Sides In Poso," BBC Monitoring International Reports, August 30, 2002. Original from Tentara Nasional Indonesia web site. BBC translation received on the Joyo listserv, August 31, 2002.
178 LPS-HAM and Pusat Kajian Dan Pengembangan Media, "Pandangan Akhir Tahun," December 14, 2001, p. 18 and 22; Erik W. and Damar, "Government criticized over sectarian conflict in Poso" Jakarta Post, December 19, 2001.
180 Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld upon request, Palu. National police chief Dai Bachtiar indicated a failure to see the crucial role of law enforcement in reconciliation following the bombings in mid-September 2001: "Now is no longer the time for reconciliation but it is already time for law enforcement." "Dokumentasi Seyam Reda Dibuat di Indonesia," Kompas Cybermedia, September 20, 2002.
183 Laskar Jihad was explicit in its linkage of judicial results and violence: "With Tibo brought to justice... Muslims will increasingly trust the government officials, but if the law enforcers are weak in resolving the Poso conflict, don't blame Poso Muslims for resolving it in their own way." Berita Laskar Jihad, November 27, 2001.
190 GKST proposed a "Total Reconciliation" format touching on culture, legal, political and economic aspects of the conflict. "Kerja Tim Rekonsiliasi Dipertanyakan," Nuansa Poso, July 3, 2001; "Tim Kecil Rully Dinilia Mubazir," Mercusuar, September 11, 2001.