29 December 2011

Bima violent clash: The ‘hitman’ state and corporate greed

Moh Yasir Alimi, Semarang | Tue, 2/27/2011 8:41 

Jakarta Post-opinion. The nation watched another spectacle of police brutality unfold on Saturday, this time in Bima, West Nusa Tenggara, when several hundred officers used force to dispel peaceful protestors occupying Sape port at 6 a.m. when many were still sleeping, praying or cooking.

Two people were shot dead and 31 were injured. The occupation was ended suddenly and brutally. Why did the police arm themselves to evict the protestors? Why didn’t they learn from the Mesuji tragedy? 

West Nusa Tenggara is a religious and cultured society. The police or the government could have requested the assistance of clerics or the “tuan guru” as mediators.

Officials should have responded to the key issue behind the occupation of the port: Bima Regent decree No. 188/45/357/004/2010, which authorized PT Sumber Mineral Nusantara (SMN) to operate in Bima and the ensuing failure of democratic channels to represent the voice of residents. 

Residents protested because mining might endanger their livelihoods as farmers and fishermen.

The land earmarked for exploitation has springs for used irrigation and potable water upon which their lives depend.

Police brutality is a sign of a corrupt system and corrupt mentalities. Corruption is an old story for the nation; however, what is new is the incestuous relationship between greedy corporations and greedy officials. The state has become an agent for the interests of capitalists and corporations at the expense of its own citizens. 

What we are witnessing is the emergence of what sociologist I. Wibowo called a centeng, or hitman, state. While a democratic state is government of the people, by the people and for the people, a centeng state is government by the corporation, of the corporation, for the corporation.

Under this form of governance, popular sovereignty is used only to masquerade the primitive nature of the state and the greed of its elites, who work as hitmen for corporations and to protect the interests of capital.

Security in a centeng state is transactional. If you can pay, you get protection. This is apparent in remote areas where corporations operate, such as atop Jaya Wijaya or in the forests of Mesuji. The police justify this mercenary arrangement by saying that they have a limited budget and must accept money from the corporations.

In a centeng state, it doesn’t matter that the gun that a police officer holds was paid for by taxpayers, nor that salary of the officer himself is paid by the people. What matters is how you can become rich, instantly and preferably without work.

The greed of corporations and the greed of the state soon manifests in violence, which can occur easily, as leaders are supposed to have been bought. That is why the police are often forced to implement the law. Greed and violence are two sides of the same coin.

Police brutality tells us something new about both corruption and police. First, while corruption does not necessarily involve physical violence, in a centeng state, corruption becomes intermingled with violence and brutality. 

Second, in a centeng state the police are corrupt, violent and immune from the consequences of their actions. The National Commission of Human Rights, according activist Johnson Panjaitan, said many cases of human rights violations went unresolved as the police were often immune to prosecution and their methods failed to touch the root of the problems. 

For example, after the violence in Bima, the police are likely to recycle the same tired justifications. The police will say they had to protect public assets, that they followed standard procedures, that the protesters started the violence and that officers were only defending themselves. 

During the ensuing investigation, the police will identify some protesters as “provocateurs” who ignited the violence — usually community organizers trying to protect society and the nation’s sovereignty under the Constitution.

Police brutality is persistent and widespread because many reports end without disciplinary action by the police — another sign of the violent and corrupt mentality governing the institution.

After some societal pressure, the police might then announce that some officers were found guilty of using excessive force and were punished, usually by delayed promotions or transfers out of the area. The police are shockingly incompetent in policing themselves. 

Civil society must press the government to not give guns to violent, volatile and unstable people who shield themselves with badges purchased with taxpayer money. While there are many police officers who bravely and steadfastly serve and protect their fellow citizens, too many others are failing.

The combination of corporate and state greed has desensitized the police, leading to an increase in brutality, corruption and misconduct. 

The police must learn that the use of force will only galvanize people into disobedience against the state and will not solve the problem. 

To reduce police brutality, it is high time to disarm officers who face demonstrators and reform standard procedures for managing protests. 

The “centeng mentality” that pervades every component of the state must be reformed. Bima Regent Ferry Zulkarnaen can do this by cancelling the 2010 decree. A hitman state is a sign of primitivism. It is a sign that our nation has moved backward.

*The writer is a researcher at the Center for Cultural Pluralism, Democracy and Character Building at Semarang State University.


Link for a raw video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mm5f2HmAhHI

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