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Indonesian security forces in West Papua (Part 2)

West Papua Report - January 2015

By Made Supriatma


The police is second biggest security force in West Papua. Like the army, the regional police headquarters (Polda) encompasses both Papua and West Papua provinces. It has 29 precinct/district-level offices (27 Polres and 2 Polresta), 174 subdistrict offices (Polsek), and 165 police posts. The Polda has various agencies including intelligence, crimes, and traffic.

The presence of police in Papua grows following the proliferation of civilian bureaucracy. They have offices at nearly every regency and municipality. The police have become a significant security force in West Papua. The regional police (Polda) have around 2,700 personnel. At the precinct level (Polres) police have 10,904 personnel distributed in 27 Polres. In total there are around 14,854 police in West Papua.[ 1]

Polda Papua also has two battalions of Brigade Mobil or Brimob, which have headquarters in Jayapura and Sorong respectively. As more responsibilities over domestic security are now handed over to the police, Brimob have been forced to take over many jobs that previously were done by the army. However, one drawback is immediately apparent: Brimob are not trained in anti-guerilla combat. In this case, the army is still taking the leading role.

On the other side, however, we can also see that the police assume a greater role in handling unrests in this region. This is especially apparent with targeted killings done by Densus-88 (Detachment 88), an anti-terror detachment established following the Bali bombings in 2002 and funded by Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom. If killing of Papuan leader Theys Hiyo Eluay in 2001 was conducted by the army's Kopassus, the killings of Kelly Kwalik in 2009 and Mako Tabuni in 2012 were both allegedly performed by Densus-88. The role of Densus-88 will likely be greater in West Papua in the future.


There is no doubt that West Papua is the primary focus for Indonesian intelligence. There are multiple intelligence agencies operating in West Papua. Intelligence has a special role to support operations against separatist movements and social unrests.

Formally, the Indonesian intelligence community consists of Badan Intelijen Negara/State Intelligence Agency (BIN); TNI intelligence; police intelligence; the state prosecutor office (kejaksaan); and ministerial intelligence. The task to coordinate intelligence agencies is supposedly done by BIN, but BIN has no control over other intelligence agencies.[2]

In West Papua, BIN has offices in Papua and Papua Barat provinces. Each provincial office is headed by Kabinda (Kepala BIN Daerah/Head of Regional BIN). The Kabinda position is held by a brigadier general level official, which means that the Kabinda have ranks equal to or higher than the existing intelligence officials in the region. Kabinda positions in both in Papua and Papua Barat provinces are held by army officers.

The army is clearly dominating the intelligence community in West Papua. Kodam XVII Cendrawasih has the most complete network of intelligence, from provincial center down to village level. The Kodam commander has an intelligence assistant who supervises Kodam's intelligence detachment (Den Intel). At the Korem level, intelligence is handled by a "Chief" (Kasi Intel) who supervises a platoon (Ton Intelrem). At the Kodim level, smaller unit of intelligence officers (Unit Intel Kodim) is at work under a perwira seksi intel (Pasi Intel). Finally, the lowest level of Kodam's territorial outreach may provide the best human intelligence (HUMINT). The army establishes Koramil at every subdistrict and at the village level it has Babinsa (Village Guidance Noncommissioned Officer).

Other military intelligence units are also working in West Papua besides Kodam's territorial command. TNI's main intelligence body, BAIS (Badan Intelijen Strategis), works independent from the Kodam structure. It usually inserts its officers in other task forces such as the Border Task Force, in the navy's primary base (Lantamal) or in the air force's base (Lanud). It is not clear how the BAIS officers coordinate their work with Kodam. However, we can expect that there is close coordination and cooperation between local and national military intelligence officers, because many officers assigned at the local level previously served at the national level, and vice versa.

Two combat units within the army also have their own intelligence operated independently in West Papua. Kopassus is known for deploying Tim Sattis (Tactical Unit) Tribuana in the border areas. The unit is operated independently although it is deployed with other nonorganic (BKO) forces. Meanwhile, Kostrad also has its own intelligence whenever the Kostrad troops are deployed as BKO in one region. Both Kopassus and Kostrad have Tontaipur (peleton pengintai tempur/combat recon platoon), which is a rapid reaction team. Tontaipur activities mix combat missions and intelligence gathering.

The Indonesian navy also operates its intelligence on both of its Lantamal X (Jayapura) and Lantamal XI (Merauke). The Lantamal's intelligence assistant's post is held by a colonel, which makes this post equal to the similar post at Kodam XVII. The navy's intelligence focus, however, is more toward infiltration from the sea, smuggling, and piracy. The air force also has a small intelligence team lead by a major and is actively involved in conducting intelligence operations in Papua.

The Indonesian police also have their own intelligence networks. At the Polda level, intelligence is administered by Direktorat Intelijen dan Keamanan/Directorat of Security and Intelligence (Dit Intelpam). It is headed by a Police Grand Commissioner/Komisaris Besar Polisi (Kombespol), equivalent to the army's colonel.[3] Meanwhile, at the precinct level (Polres), there is Satuan Intelijen dan Keamanan/Intelligence and Security Unit (Sat Intelkam), which is headed by a Police Commissioner Adjutant/Ajun Komisaris Polisi (AKP), or captain level in the army. Dit Intelkam works with its equivalent Den Intel Dam at the Kodam level. Meanwhile, Sat Intelkam at the precinct level works with its counterpart, Unit Intel Kodim.

On the civilian side, some intelligence agencies also operate in West Papua. The local state's prosecutor office, both at the provincial and regency levels, has the so-called "prosecutor intelligence" (intelijen kejaksaan) that oversees sensitive legal cases, especially corruption and other crimes. The other institution that also has an intelligence operation is immigration.

The largest civilian agency that conducts intelligence work is the Interior Ministry. The ministry has a directorate called Kesatuan Bangsa & Politik (National Unity and Politics), and one of its functions is intelligence. Provinces, regencies, and municipalities also have similar agencies called Kesbang Linmas (Kesatuan Bangsa dan Perlindungan Masyarakat/National Unity and Community Protection). This agency replaces Kantor Biro Sospol, which existed during the New Order. In terms of its function, however, there are not so many differences between Kantor Biro Sospol and Kesbang Linmas.

The Kesbang Linmas organized paramilitary is called Linmas, formerly known as Hansip (Pertahanan Sipil). Linmas is a paramilitary organization that aims to provide self-protection for the society.[4] It is supposed to be organized from the bottom up but in practice Linmas is more a top-down organization. Linmas members are trained by the military. Thus, even Hansip is formally under the Kesbang Linmas office, and the military has immense influence over it. Also, Kesbang Linmas officials are often held by retired military officers. In the conflict situation, the military could easily turn this paramilitary organization into militia, as was shown previously in East Timor or Aceh. Linmas and other paramilitary organizations also provide human intelligence to the military.[5]

As we have seen, Indonesian intelligence is messy, with overlap agencies that are not communicating or coordinating with each other. The Interior Ministry tries to create a mechanism to coordinate these agencies at the provincial, regency, and municipality level. The coordinating body is called Komunitas Intelijen Daerah (Kominda). A governor, regent, or major is the head of Kominda, and the Kesbang Linmas chief is its secretary.[6]

This coordinating mechanism, however, is a failure in several respects. First, ministry regulation is clearly against the Intelligence Law, which put BIN as the agency solely responsible for coordinating intelligence agencies. Second, in practice, it is very difficult for civilian bureaucrats at the local levels to be able to coordinate agencies involving military and police. Third, the head of civilian bureaucracy has no control over these intelligence agencies.


We have seen that the military and police have doubled their units and personnel in West Papua in the last decade. However, although the army is still maintaining its superiority in term of influence and number of personnel, it is the police who take a greater role in maintaining security. Police are involved in assassinations of KNPB (Komite Nasional Papua Barat/West Papua National Committee) activists[7] and conduct "military" operations against OPM.

The shift to use a police force runs concurrently with the development within West Papua's political movements. Since 2009, the dynamic of conflicts in West Papua has changed significantly. The conflict in West Papua is now characterized by two important features: increasing mass protests, especially protests organized by KNPB[8]; and more frequent shootings by mysterious perpetrators that locals dub as "orang tak dikenal" (OTK, or unknown person).

It seems that the shift of the security operations from the military to the police indicates the limit of use of force by the military. Under Indonesia's new security laws, the police are responsible for security while the military is responsible for defense. The transfer of domestic security responsibilities to the police creates the impression that reform is underway in West Papua. But on the other hand, we also see military buildup and the army still receives thousands of troops from outside the region to support its diverse operations. The presence of a large military force presupposes that the military remains in control of security in West Papua.

It is hard to imagine that President Joko Widodo will be able to keep his campaign promises to the Papuan people. He has to face harsh realities of deep intervention of the security forces into Papuans' society. The current state of military and police in West Papua will add to skepticism that there will be no meaningful solution for conflicts in West Papua under the Joko Widodo administration. Even if he wants to solve some of the problems he has to deal with his military first.

[Made Supriatma is an editor with Joyo Indonesia News Service.]


[1] Polda Papua's website provides information on the district level. See http://www.papua.polri.go.id/(accessed April 6, 2012). Papua's police chief, Insp Gen Tito Karnavian, in his 2013 New Year's conference said that police will add two more Polres. The Polres were to be established in Lanny Jaya and Memberamo Raya regencies. The decision to establish these Polres was taken based on evaluation and prediction that Lanny Jaya and Memberamo Raya regencies are prone to have greater "security disturbances" in the near future. Karnavian also said that 700 new personnel will be added to the police force in Papua. It will make the number of police around 14,000 personnel (sic!), which is "ideal in comparison with Papua's population." See "Polda Papua Akan Bangun Dua Polres Ditahun 2013," Tabloid Jubi, January 1, 2013. Online: http://tabloidjubi.com/?p=7922 (accessed January 2, 2013).

[2] Theoretically, BIN is a civilian agency. This is a cabinet-level agency that has offices in all over Indonesia. Although BIN is a civilian agency, most of its personnel come from the military, especially from the army and navy. The heads of BIN almost all come from the army except in 2009 2011, when a police general was appointed.

[3] As of 2013, the director of Dit Intelkam Polda Papua is Kombes Pol Abdi Dharma Sitepu. There are lots of "interesting stories" about the career of this police officer. Abdi Dharma was caught along with other police and army officers by Joint Battalion (Batalyon Gabungan or Yon Gab consisted of Kopassus, Paskhas, and Marines) in Hotel Wijaya II in Ambon, Maluku, in 2001 during the peak of Ambon's communal war. They were accused as "rogue security forces" that aimed to keep the communal wars aflame. Abdi Dharma then transferred to Southeast Sulawesi Polda and became the acting chief of Brimob. In 2003, he was promoted as Chief of Poso Precinct(Kapolres) in Central Sulawesi. Like Ambon, Poso was also hit by communal wars between Muslims and Christians. During his tenure there, Poso was hit by many terror acts. In 2005, along with other local officials, he was accused of taking part in embezzling the state's funds allocated for the conflict's refugees. His name appeared again on the press in 2008 when he took office as director of Dit Intelkam at Riau Polda. In Riau he had to deal with conflicts between logging and palm oil companies with locals and environmental activists. After a brief break for studying at Sespati (Sekolah Perwira Tinggi/School of Flag Rank Officer) in 2010, he was assigned as staff at police headquarters in Jakarta. In early April 2010, he took over as director of Dit Intelkam Polda Papua. As his career in other places, during Abdi Dharma's tenure, the security situation in West Papua became vulnerable with shootings by "unknown people" (Orang Tak Dikenal or OTK) and targeted killings especially toward KNPB activists.

[4] Linmas is not the only paramilitary organization at the local level. There are other similar paramilitary organizations such as Wanra (Perlawanan Rakyat), a community organization controlled by the military and aimed at defending the country against foreign invasion/infiltration; Kamra (Keamanan Rakyat) is paramilitary to help police maintain security in a community; Banpol (Bantuan Polisi) is a police helper; SatPol PP (Satuan Polisi Pamong Praja) is regency or municipality police; and Pam Swakarsa (Pasukan Pengamanan Masyarakat Swakarsa) is a militia created by the army.

[5] Most of the militia involved in violence in East Timor and in Aceh were members of these "civilian" organizations before they turned into militia by the military.

[6] See Interior Ministry Regulation No. 16/2011.

[7] Australia's Fairfax Media notes that there were 22 KNPB activists killed in 2012, 3 still missing, 7 have been charged for various offenses, 200 more have been released after detained less than three months. Online: http://goo.gl/jRGn8 (accessed December 18, 2012).

[8] Komite Nasional Papua Barat (KNPB) is an organization whose members are students or ex-student activists mainly from the central highlands of West Papua. The organization aims to review the 1969 Acts of Free Choice and hold a referendum for the future of West Papua. International Crisis Group (ICG) in its report charges that KNPB was shifting its tactics from peaceful methods to violence and works closely with TPN/OPM. The report also claims KNPB was responsible for several violent incidents in Jayapura, near Freeport mining, and in other places in West Papua. See Radicalisation And Dialogue In Papua, International Crisis Group (ICG), Asia Report N0188 11 March 2010. This report has been considered biased by pro-Papuan activists and academics. The ICG report is following narratives long held and spread by Indonesian military and police. On rebuttal to this report, see Jim Elmslie and Camellia Webb Gannon with Peter King, Get up, stand up: West Papua stands up for its rights. A rebuttal of the International Crisis Group Report No. 188, Radicalisation and Dialogue in Papua: West Papuans unite against Special Autonomy and for a referendum on independence, West Papua Project of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACS), The University of Sydney (Australia), July 2010.

Source: http://www.etan.org/issues/wpapua/2015/1501wpap.htm.

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