The Kanjuruhan football tragedy and the government’s miscommunication

Things happen and they do so not in black and white. There are reasons and counter reasons as to why things happen that will be unveiled only by time and careful investigations.

Some things can be disputed. Were police and military provoked into using force by rowdy football fans? There was certainly some provocation, if the video clips of the night’s event are accurate. Was there fear among the security personnel that the crowd in the rafters would join the mob on the playing field? There were some spectators that were seen climbing the 2 meter high fence to get in on video clips.

These, however, did not explain why the security personnel had to fire tear gas at the crowd, or resort to beating them up with their truncheons and fists. There was also a memorable scene in which a military officer executed a flying kick at a spectator.

Acts like these would inflame the emotions of anyone, what more the soccer fans who are usually on the receiving end of administrative and enforcement injustice and foul play in their everyday lives. In addition they are wrong, using teargas on soccer matches are against FIFA rules and the stadium was overpacked.

But that was one incident that the authorities could easily blame on the commanding officer at the stadium. Indeed the head of the Malang police has been received of his duties over the incident.

The buck does not, and should not, stop there though. The head of the national police should take responsibility as this incident happened under his watch. Instead, he washes his hands like Pontius Pilot, and orders an investigation. As if he has no responsibility for the behaviour of his men. As if Ferdy Sambo and his gang’s activities in the police had nothing to do with him; as if the shooting of some FPI members under suspicious circumstances were the acts of some unrelated officials.

Instead he offers the children of the dead victims of Kanjuruhan a job in the Police if they wanted it. That ‘s surreal. We stuffed up and inadvertently killed your father at a football match, so you can grow up to be like us, guaranteed of a salary and acting with impunity.

Then there is the PSSI chief, Iwan Bule who welcomed officials who were “happy” (bahagia) at the emergency centre in Malang just after the tragedy. He too promised to launch an investigation.

What’s likely to happen is that some officials down the line will be the fall guys. They will cop the blame but the top officials will continue being sanctimonious about how everyone should play their part in ensuring safety, how reforms were needed (but are never implemented), and engage in a harmless bout of finger pointing.

So at the end of the day nothing gets solved. In time the anger will abate and it will be business as usual. But it is just a matter of time before another tragedy involving angry crowds and poor police crowd control happens. Sad and depressing. My heart goes out to the victims of Kanjuruhan and the victims of the countless incidents of bad and unfair security enforcement.