Doubts remain over Indonesia’s new police sports policy after stampede incident

While critics welcomed the police's swift response to the recommendation, they were cautious about its implementation if the police did not make a serious effort to end their deep-rooted culture of violence.

Nur Janti

Nur Janti

The Jakarta Post


This picture taken on Oct. 1 shows tear gas released by police among people crowded in the stands after a football match between Arema FC and Persebaya at the Kanjuruhan stadium in Malang, East Java. (AFP/STR)

December 2, 2022

JAKARTA – The National Police issued a regulation on policing sports events earlier this month to prevent any recurrence of the fatal Kanjuruhan Stadium stampede, but critics are wary of lessons not learned.

Police chief Gen. Listyo Sigit Prabowo signed Internal Regulation No. 10/2022 on securing sports matches last month, which was later approved by Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly on Nov. 4.

The policy was issued as a response to recommendations by a government-sanctioned fact-finding team, which found that October’s deadly stampede in the East Java town of Malang that killed 131 people, including 32 children, was mainly triggered by an unwarranted use of tear gas by the police force.

The team recommended the police issue an internal regulation on securing sports competitions, particularly soccer matches.

The police followed this up and issued the regulation that bans the use of tear gas at any matches held by the Soccer Association of Indonesia (PSSI) to prevent the deadly incident from recurring.

In a bid to prevent potential violence among spectators, the police regulation also bans certain objects, including sharp weapons, matches and drinking bottles being brought into sports venues.

“The police regulation is encouraging because it has yet to be specifically stipulated in other regulations,” team member Laode Muhammad Syarif said. “This regulation bans the use of tear gas in sports events.”

The team also identified other contributing factors, including the stadium being filled beyond its capacity, locked exit doors, as well as a push by league officials to hold the game at night to secure better ratings for a local broadcaster, despite a request by the police to hold the match during the day.

While critics welcomed the police’s swift response to the recommendation, they were cautious about its implementation if the police did not make a serious effort to end their deep-rooted culture of violence.

Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) chairman Muhamad Isnur said the police must instruct their members to show restraint in facing spectators and not use excessive force in handling crowds in sporting events. He demanded Listyo’s commitment to implementing the new regulation to ensure public safety during sporting events and prevent another deadly incident in the future.

Abdul Wachid Habibullah from the Surabaya Legal Aid Institute in East Java was unconvinced that having the police regulation in place without strong enforcement would prevent another Kanjuruhan tragedy occurring.

“A regulation means little without strong implementation. There are many similar police regulations [particularly regarding crowd control] but we don’t feel that the personnel on the ground are aware of or know how to implement them,” he said.

National Police spokesperson Insp. Gen. Dedi Prasetyo was not immediately available for comment when contacted by The Jakarta Post on Thursday. But Dedi told on Tuesday that the police would gradually disseminate the new regulation to all regions in the country.

The police have repeatedly come under fire for their excessive use of force in recent years, including when dispersing demonstrations. Last year, an officer in Tangerang, Banten, was caught on video slamming a student protester onto the pavement.

A viral hashtag #PercumaLaporPolisi (no point going to the police) in 2021 also demonstrated the public’s discontent over prevailing policing methods, which are considered unaccountable, nontransparent and indifferent to human rights. This, combined with other controversies, has led the law enforcement institution into one of its worst PR crises in recent years.

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