The Indonesian stadium stampede that left 131 people dead has sparked anger at the nation’s police, whom critics have long accused of using excessive violence.
Police, who described the unrest on Saturday night as “riots,” said they tried to force supporters to return to the stands and fired tear gas after they invaded the pitch.
However, survivors — who described the police as wielding batons and firing tear gas at helpless spectators — accuse them of overreacting, which led to a crush that became one of the deadliest disasters in soccer history.
Indonesia’s police force has, with the military, been involved for decades in suppressing dissent, quelling riots, crushing radical Islamist groups and anchoring a bloody fight against separatists. The police force has grown in power as an institution used for the security of the state since the fall of Indonesia’s military dictatorship in the late 1990s.
Data reviewed by Agence France-Presse shows a force heavily armed and funded to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars for tactical riot equipment since Indonesian President Joko Widodo came to power in 2014.
Spending on crowd control tactical gear — batons, tear gas, gas masks, shields and vehicles — has jumped in the past few years, according to figures collected by Andri Prasetiyo, a researcher at nongovernmental organization Trend Asia who analyzes government purchases.
They have spent close to US$250 million in less than a decade, he said, to kit out officers who use what experts say is often excessive force.
In 2014, the national police spent US$6 million on tear gas. This year, that figure rose to US$10 million. In the period between, it spent more than US$68 million on tear gas.
In the province of East Java, where the tragedy in the city of Malang occured, police spent US$3.2 million on batons in January alone.
“They use our tax money to kill us,” Prasetiyo said.
The nine elite officers suspended after the incident remain under investigation and come from a unit notorious for its aggressive crowd control tactics. All are commanders in the Mobile Brigade Corps, or Brimob, a unit that acts as the special operations paramilitary unit for the Indonesian police force.
Since the election of Widodo, they have been used to crush government opponents, activists say. Their coffers have since been heavily buffeted to militarize the force.
“In the past the most brutal force in the military were the special forces. I think they [Brimob] are now getting more notoriously known as a special force of the military,” Amnesty International Indonesia director Usman Hamid said.
Indonesia’s Commission for Disappeared and Victims of Violence, or Kontras, recorded 677 incidents of violence by police between July last year and June that left 59 people dead and 928 injured.
In the years before the COVID-19 pandemic, such incidents spiked. In 2018 to 2019, Kontras recorded 643 cases of violence, while it recorded 921 cases the following year.
“The police feel like they are above the law and can do anything they deem necessary,” said Ardi Manto Adiputra, deputy director of human rights group Imparsial.
Many Indonesians fear this cycle of violence will never end without punishment for officers.
A key problem in bringing them to justice is little oversight inside or outside the force and close ties between the police and the government, Kontras coordinator Fatia Maulidiyanti said.
Experts say Widodo has helped place police allies in key positions after the force supported his most recent election bid, and the officers’ presence within the Indonesian elite is blurring the lines.
It means little action is taken against officers who commit alleged crimes, Maulidiyanti said.
“The sanctions against guilty officers are not fair or just. They are rarely brought to the criminal court,” she said.
Transparency International ranks the national police force as one of the most corrupt institutions in Indonesia.
Mochamad Iriawan, the president of Indonesia’s soccer association — which has refused to criticize the police for the stampede — is the former police chief of Jakarta.
The country’s intelligence chief was deputy of the national police force, and the head of the country’s anti-graft commission was chief of the national police’s security maintenance agency.
“If we don’t do something, I think Indonesia is going to become a police state,” Hamid said.
Pins hidden in her shoes, head forced down a toilet, kicked in the stomach: South Korean hairdresser Pyo Ye-rim suffered a litany of abuse from school bullies, but now she is speaking out. The 26-year-old is part of a phenomenon sweeping South Korea known as “Hakpok #MeToo,” where people who were bullied publicly name and shame the perpetrators of school violence — “hakpok” in Korean — decades after the alleged crimes. Made famous globally by Netflix’s gory revenge series The Glory, the movement has ensnared everyone from K-pop stars to baseball players and accusations — often anonymous — can be career-ending, with
One of Australia’s two active volcanoes on an island near Antarctica — known as Big Ben — has been spotted by satellite spewing lava. The lava flow on the uninhabited Heard Island, about 4,100km southwest of Perth and 1,500km north of Antarctica, is part of an ongoing eruption that was first noted more than a decade ago. The image was caught by the European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite on Thursday, and is a composite of an optical picture and an infrared image. The lava is seen flowing down the side of Big Ben from near the summit, known as Mawson Peak.
SYMBOLIC: The bill sponsored by a cross-party group of lawmakers was hailed as a ‘historic moment’ in the fight for marriage equality, but is unlikely to pass Lawmakers in South Korea have proposed the country’s first same-sex marriage bill, in a move hailed by civic groups as a defining moment in the fight for equality. The marriage equality bill, proposed by South Korean lawmaker Jang Hye-yeong of the minor opposition Justice Party and co-sponsored by 12 lawmakers across all the main parties, seeks to amend the country’s civil code to allow same-sex marriage. The bill is unlikely to pass, but forms part of a trio of bills expected to increase pressure on the government to expand the idea of family beyond traditional criteria. The two other bills relate to
READY FOR ACTION: Military, police, firefighters and volunteers were standing by for search-and-rescue operations, with an official saying they ‘cannot afford not to prepare’ Philippine officials yesterday began evacuating thousands of people, shut down schools and offices and imposed a no-sail ban as Typhoon Mawar approached the country’s northern provinces a week after battering the US territory of Guam. The typhoon was packing maximum sustained winds of 155kpm and gusts of up to 190kph, but was forecast to spare the mountainous region a direct hit. Current projections show the typhoon veering northeast toward Taiwan or southern Japan. Although it is expected to slow down considerably, authorities warned of dangerous tidal surges, flash floods and landslides as it blows past the northernmost province of Batanes from today