Vol. 6, No. 1
|We Can't Stop Here
Gus Dur and the Military Monsterby John Roosa
The Indonesian military runs a parallel government. By itself, that fact might not present an insuperable problem for Gus Dur and the reformists. The generals are so corrupt and opportunistic that they have been easily pitted against one another in the scramble for the top appointments. (Former Defense Minister Wiranto is a prime example of the individualist position-seeker; after being sacked by Gus Dur for his "suspected" role in the East Timor war crimes, he went on a public relations campaign to defend himself, but not the rest of the suspects or the military as an institution.) The more serious problem is that this parallel government has a bureaucracy of labyrinthine complexity and impenetrability. It has too much institutional depth and inertia to be seriously affected by a busy reshuffling of the generals at the top.
The military continues with many of its Suharto-era practices. After a brief lull for the first three months of Gus Dur's presidency, it has resumed counterinsurgency operations in Aceh, which have killed thousands of civilians since 1989. Now the targets are human rights activists who spoke up during Gus Dur's first three months in office. These Acehnese activists were proposing a cease-fire between guerrillas of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the military. They were hoping to create a vibrant civilian sector for addressing Aceh's problems and figuring out amongst themselves future plans. (Not all Acehnese agree with GAM's goal, a sultanate; perhaps not even many of the rank and file within GAM agree.) The military's return to the old policy of brutal counterinsurgency has ruined the hopes of Gus Dur and the Acehnese for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the near term.
There remain, deep in the bowels of the military, institutions largely untouched by recent reforms: the intelligence agencies (such as BIA) and the covert operations unit, Kopassus, which are responsible for many past and present human rights violations. The committee of the National Human Rights Commission investigating the military's crimes in East Timor discovered a second layer of the military structure in East Timor that few people even knew existed. Apart from the "territorial structure," which the army maintains in all provinces of Indonesia, there was a separate chain of command under Kopassus called Rajawali (Eagle). All the commanding officers and intelligence officers were from Kopassus, but the thousands of troops were drawn from regular infantry units. The covert operation to finance and arm the militias in East Timor appears to have been directed by this secretive Rajawali structure. There are undoubtedly many aspects of Kopassus' operations that remain unknown even to the president.
The military's basic esprit de corps remains "protect your own." For all the personal rivalries and scrambling for posts, military officers form a perfect Masonic conspiracy vis-à-vis the public. No officer has yet testified against another officer in a human rights investigation. There are presently official investigations into four massacres: East Timor (1999), Aceh (1989-present), Tanjung Priok (1984), and headquarters of the PDI (an oppostition political party led by Megawati Sukarnoputri) in Jakarta (1996). There are also investigations into the 1994 killing of the female labor activist Marsinah and Kopassus kidnapping and torture of activists in 1997-98. In each case, the civilian investigators have faced walls of silence and denial. The main suspects for one massacre in Aceh have simply disappeared.
Civilian control over the armed forces remains a distant, almost unreachable ideal. Gus Dur is perhaps the best mortal Indonesia has to wage battle with a military committed to an entrenched system of unaccountability. But the task of driving the military beast out of the domestic, political and economic system and into the barracks cannot be the work of a solitary superhero. It has been and will be the task of many people, banding together into a fierce force for peace.