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The Jakarta Post
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Poor military leadership in Batam

  • Yuliasri Perdani and Fadli

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta/Batam | Fri, November 21, 2014 | 10:06 am
Poor military leadership in Batam

Uncontrolled forces: Investigators search for evidence following violent clashes between soldiers and the police'€™s Mobile Brigade (Brimob) at the Brimob headquarters in Batam, Riau Islands, on Thursday. The deadly clashes on Wednesday night resulted in the death of one soldier. Antara/Joko Sulistyo

An armed attack by soldiers on the Riau Islands police mobile brigade (Brimob) headquarters on Wednesday stems from the failure of leaders within the Bukit Barisan Military Command to control their personnel and to act sternly against insubordination in the past.

Dozens of members of the Army'€™s 134 Tuah Sakti infantry ambushed and opened fire on the police headquarters in Batam, Riau Islands, on Wednesday afternoon after they had vandalized the building hours before.

The incident, which lasted for almost seven hours, killed one soldier, identified as First Pvt. Jack Marpaung, and injured a civilian, Kambani, who owns a nearby stall.

The conflict dates back to a Sept. 21 clash between Brimob personnel and soldiers following an attempted police raid at a suspected illegal fuel-storage facility in Batam. Four members of the 134 Tuah Sakti infantry sustained gunshot wounds in the clash.

Al Araf, a military expert from human rights watchdog Imparsial, lamented the local military leaders'€™ poor performance in leading the soldiers and mediating the conflict.

'€œThere are many factors that triggered this incident; one is leadership. During the clashes, the Bukit Barisan Military Commander failed to show his legitimacy as a leader. This runs contrary to the local Brimob chief, who could manage his subordinates,'€ he said on Thursday.

Around 30 armed Tuah Sakti infantry personnel surrounded and attacked the Brimob headquarters between 5 and 11 p.m., defying orders from Bukit Barisan Military Commander Maj. Gen. Winston Simanjuntak to return to their barracks and hand over their weapons. The attack finally ended after Winston persuaded the soldiers using a loudspeaker.

'€œThe Indonesian Military [TNI] must reevaluate the performance of the military commander and the Wira Pratama Regional Military Command chief,'€ Al Araf said.

Aside from leadership reevaluation, Al Araf suggested the TNI and National Police build communications among their rank-and-file, and also impose fair sanctions on their members.

Indonesian Police Watch (IPW) chair Neta S. Pane said that the police-soldier clashes, which had happened many times, were due to lax discipline and a lack of external oversight in both institutions.

Neta highlighted that the clashes often sparked from conflicts surrounding illicit businesses, protected by military or police personnel.

'€œThe role of police and military people in backing such businesses keeps growing and becomes uncontainable,'€ he said.

A joint TNI-National Police investigation following the September clash found that two soldiers were involved in an illegal fuel stockpiling business.

In response to the incident, President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo has ordered the immediate removal of some members of the Army'€™s 134 Tuah Sakti infantry battalion to prevent similar incidents from happening.

'€œThose [involved in the incident] are youths of private rank,'€ Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno said after meeting the President at the State Palace.

Wednesday'€™s incident was the fourth clash between the two forces this year and the second in Batam.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo and National Police Chief Gen. Sutarman have visited Batam to restore order and handle the crisis.

'€œI apologize to the community for the incident. We will conduct an internal investigation to bring the perpetrators to justice,'€ said Sutarman in a press conference in Batam.

He said the type of ammunition that killed Marpaung was not from a Brimob standard-issue weapon but from a special weapon.

'€œThe Brimob munitions store does not have this kind of bullet. We own rubber bullets, and live 5.564 PC and 5.566 PC caliber, as well as 9 mm and 38 special weapons. We are still investigating [whether] there was a stray weapon,'€ said Sutarman.

Sutarman also highlighted that conflicts between personnel from the two institutions stemmed from poor welfare, meaning both were easily provoked into arguments.

Gatot, who also attended the press conference, said he believed there was insubordination in the Tuah Sakti Battalion, so the incident had taken place.

'€œI ordered all weapons be gathered as of midnight on Nov. 20; three weapons have not been returned,'€ he said.

He also apologized to the public for the incident, which disrupted their activities.

- Hasyim Widhiarto contributed to this article.