Subject: RT: Habibie tells military to reform
Date: Mon, 05 Oct 1998 16:56:39 +0700
From: "Leonardo J. Rimba" <email@example.com>
Indonesia's Habibie tells military to reform
03:23 a.m. Oct 05, 1998 Eastern
By Tomi Soetjipto
JAKARTA, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Indonesian President B.J. Habibie on Monday told a subdued military, struggling to mend its battered image, to reform.
``I urge ABRI (the armed forces) to improve itself in every way...(it) needs to conduct self-correction measures to make itself more adaptable to the current environment in line with the aspirations of the people,'' he said at a ceremony marking the 53rd anniversary to celebrate the founding of the Indonesian Armed Forces.
The military has had to face growing public criticism following revelations of gross human rights abuses during the 32-year autocratic rule of former President Suharto who was forced to step down in May.
The list includes the kidnapping and torture of political activists, mass killings in the restive Sumatran province of Aceh and the killing of four students during a demonstration in May - an incident that helped spark riots in the capital which left 1,200 dead and added to the pressure on Suharto to quit.
``There needs to be gradual change in vision, mission, strategy, policy...but, ABRI must maintain its integration with the people,'' Habibie said.
This year's celebrations were relatively modest, a sign of the economic crisis that has savaged Indonesia, turning it into one of Asia's most depressed economies and helping bring down Suharto.
Suharto, who was invited to the ceremony, failed to attend but leading opposition figure, Megawati Sukarnoputri who is touted by some analysts as the next Indonesian president, did.
A recent opinion poll showed that the image of the military has fallen sharply in the past few months as increasing numbers of abuses are made public.
In Jakarta and the East Java city of Surabaya thousands of protestors demanded an end to the military's ``dual function'' -- which gives it a powerful role in politics and society as well as defence.
On Sunday, armed forces chief, General Wiranto, asked Indonesians to stop criticising the military.
``I ask that the Indonesian Armed Forces and the Indonesian people bring back their unity...There is a systematic effort to loose (their) unity,'' he said in a televised speech, a reference to rising unrest around the country.
``We should believe that as long as we are not easily caught by rumours, no one can remove the unity of the armed forces and the people,'' he said.
Both Habibie and Wiranto have offered unprecedented apologies for military abuses and military operations in Aceh and Irian Jaya have been ended. Indonesia says all combat troops have been pulled out of East Timor, where it has also faced a separatist insurgency.