Collective action, engagement needed to uphold law in stadium tragedy

As the country moves closer to the election year of 2024, skepticism toward law enforcement persists.

Ahmad Adi Susilo and Vidhyandika D Perkasa

Ahmad Adi Susilo and Vidhyandika D Perkasa

The Jakarta Post


Schoolchildren walk past a banner in Malang, East Java, on Oct. 6, calling for a thorough investigation of the Kanjuruhan Stadium stampede, which killed at least 131 people in one of the deadliest disasters in football history. ( AFP/Juni Kriswanto)

October 14, 2022

JAKARTA – One of the significant challenges facing this country is the just enforcement of the law. Sadly, the public often encounters injustice, such as light sentences for corruption convicts or perpetrators of violent crimes, as exemplified by human rights cases in Papua.

As the country moves closer to the election year of 2024, skepticism toward law enforcement persists. Elite maneuvering tends to be inseparable from political intrigue. At the same time, it is also widely known that the government faces difficulties in resolving past atrocities amid fears that the renewed attention will disrupt political harmony.

In this context, as soon as President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo appointed several key stakeholders to resolve the Oct. 1 Kanjuruhan Stadium tragedy in Malang, East Java, fairly and transparently, efforts to enforce the law against those responsible for the deadly incident have sparked tensions.

Unsurprisingly, the public is skeptical of the government’s commitment to justice in the case, in which 131 people were killed in a stampede that followed a match between Arema FC and archrival Persebaya Surabaya.

In the tragedy, the interaction between the public and security officers tends to be diametric. Before the investigation was launched, the public promptly deemed the police the culprits. This indicates extreme distrust in the security apparatus.

Engagement between security officers and the public is crucial for a fair investigation. However, this has not been the case with regard to the Kanjuruhan incident.

Even when the police named six suspects, the public, especially netizens, considered the law enforcement measures insufficient to address the root of the problem. As such, a thorough investigation is needed, including into several Arema supporters who stormed the playing field and may have provoked the incident.

Amid public pessimism about law enforcement against perpetrators of human rights violations, the Kanjuruhan incident offers an opportunity for the security apparatus and the government to prove their commitment to law enforcement and human rights. Ensuring law enforcement that implicates the security apparatus is ultimately a collective effort.

Learning from the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, the public has become increasingly aware of severe problems with policing in the United States, including the ties between the present system and the slave patrols of the past. In the George Floyd case, a collective action finally emerged between police officers and the public to work together to build a more equitable security force while promoting just law enforcement.

In the Kanjuruhan case, this collective public action could be treated as a reconciliation process between the public and security apparatus. The collective action can also serve as a corrective measure in which the public plays a crucial role in solving the problem through engagement with the security apparatus.

Collective action will help the parties involved become aware of these issues, understand them and acknowledge them in a “balanced” perspective, thus preventing a blame game and instead encouraging efforts to find an agreeable and impartial solution.

In the aftermath of the Malang tragedy, various elements of society, ranging from soccer club fans to students, initiated collective actions in displays of solidarity with and compassion for victims of the incident through mass prayers.

This could be the starting point for building engagement between the public and security officers. Security officers should take “symbolic meanings” of the public actions as an engagement strategy for reconciliation.

The collective solidarity has produced at least two forms of awareness.

The first is moral awareness. The incident has marked a turning point for soccer fans toward maturity that places human values over blind fanaticism. In Yogyakarta, for example, supporters of Persis Solo gathered with supporters of a rival club for a mass prayer at Mandala Krida Stadium. As a display of solidarity and compassion, they agreed to end their enmity.

The various acts of solidarity cannot be interpreted as mere forms of compassion. More than that, the people joined the calls for justice for the victims of the Kanjuruhan tragedy.

Second, the solidarity movement has generated awareness of law, knowing that moral understanding alone is not enough. The public knows law enforcement is imperative to uphold justice. In this regard Arema FC supporters have pledged to fight for the rights of the victims. We can expect them to help the fact-finding team for the sake of justice.

This legal awareness has given rise to calls for a thorough investigation. Not only do those expressions represent the anger of the public, they also show hope that law enforcement can settle the case beyond doubt.

Gaining public trust is a must for the security apparatus to resolve the case. For this reason the police’s public apology to the Kanjuruhan tragedy victims at a recent mass prayer is a step in the right direction, although some reacted cynically to the initiative.

From the efforts to build public engagement and trust, we can have confidence that the law will be enforced fairly. In addition, the engagement can push for more transparent and accountable security officers.

To conclude, various patterns of behavior from the public in response to the Kanjuruhan tragedy signal that people power remains and cannot be neglected. The public’s collective consciousness will spur various responses with the primary goal of ensuring that law enforcement and justice are carried out properly.

The principle of equality before the law must be upheld. As the Kanjuruhan nightmare has demonstrated, the rise of human values, togetherness and the search for justice are all constructed on broader public awareness and engagement.

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