Subject: JP: Skepticism remains over TNI internal reform

Jakarta Post Wednesday, January 3, 2001

Skepticism remains over TNI internal reform

JAKARTA (JP): The year 2000 saw unlikely changes in the Indonesian Military (TNI) -- and the Army in particular, as demonstrated in the four major reshuffles and the dismissal of generals who were still active and dubbed strong contenders for the top post in the armed forces.

Combined with persistent antimilitary sentiment and political pressures which mounted during the annual session of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) in August, the move to reform the military should have borne fruit.

MPR issued two landmark decrees which separates the Police from TNI and subsequently sets a clear division of labor between them. The Police are now in the vanguard of security, reducing TNI to a back-up role.

Nevertheless, nothing has proven effective to push for a sound internal reform in the TNI, which, despite its battered image, stands as the most solid political power amid unabated bickering among civilian counterparts.

Many believe the prolonged bloodshed in Maluku and North Maluku and violence in rebellious provinces of Aceh and Irian Jaya has justified the military's insistence on keeping its territorial function intact.

On the other hand, human rights abuses in the four provinces have been blamed in part on the military's reluctance to enforce the law and failure to maintain the country's peace and order.

Several major reshuffles in the military, especially the transfer of power in the Army from Gen. Subagyo Hadisiswoyo to Gen. Tyasno Sudarto and to the current chief of staff Gen. Endriartono Sutarto has made the public more skeptical and pessimistic about a thorough reform in the military.

Both Subagyo, a former adjutant of former president Soeharto, and Endriartono, former chief of the presidential guard force (Paspampres), have been close to the former ruler. Tyasno failed to continue the reform because of the allegation of his involvement in numerous crimes, including a fake money case.

The Army under Subagyo, Tyasno and Endriartono several times pledged to review its territorial function and its business activities to repair its badly tarnished image but, so far, no concrete actions have materialized.

Rumors that President Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid in his capacity as TNI's supreme commander is unable to control the military, were confirmed when he failed to promote pro-reform Lt. Gen. Agus Wirahadikusumah, as Army chief to replace Tyasno in October. Many generals went against Agus, citing his move to reveal irregularities in the foundation belonging to the Army Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad) that implicated a number of generals during his brief tenure at the command. Agus was eventually given no job in the massive reshuffle in July.

Addressing the celebration of TNI's 55th anniversary, the President called on soldiers to remain loyal to the state, instead of serving their leaders but it gained no enthusiastic response from the military leadership.

Although for over one year, TNI has been led by a non-Army officer, Admiral Widodo Adi Sutjipto, no significant changes have been made by the armed forces. Despite the discharge of Gen. Fahrul Razi as TNI deputy commander, the leadership of Widodo remains ineffective because most of the strategic posts in the TNI Headquarters remain in the hands of Army generals.

J. Kristiadi, a political observer from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), recounted that despite its exit from the bureaucracy, the military was still powerful, thanks to the presence of its territorial line of command stretching from the regional military commands in provincial capitals to military districts and subdistricts.

He was sure the military will never go back to the barracks and that democracy could not be upheld unless the territorial function is phased out.

Harold Crouch, an Australian observer of Indonesia, has observed that despite its withdrawal from politics, the Army could still pose a potential obstacle to reform due to its territorial organization which remains intact. He said the Army has abused ethnic, religious and intergroup (SARA) conflicts to justify its sociopolitical role as necessary to maintain social order and national unity.

It has been an open secret that Army officers and soldiers have long since abused the territorial command "to extort the people and commit crimes."

"The territorial function has been abused by generals to extort businessmen and government officials and by low-ranking soldiers to commit crimes such as robberies and banned drug trafficking," Revrisond Baswir, a political observer from the Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University, said recently.

He suggested the territorial function be phased out and the military's business be cut to let TNI be professional in carrying out its defense function.

Juwono Sudarsono, former defense minister, acknowledged it needs a long time to cleanse corrupt practices in the military and to develop harmonious civil-military relationships. He said a significant increase in the defense budget was not an urgent solution to combat the corrupt culture.

According to him, the Army's diverging territorial function could be neutralized if political parties have a strong network spanning from Jakarta to the provinces, districts, subdistricts and villages.

Salim Said, a military observer, called on the House to review the law on defense to phase out the territorial function.

"All problems around the presence of regional military commands, military districts and subdistricts could be solved peacefully if the territorial function as stipulated by the law is reviewed, or even phased out," he told The Jakarta Post recently.

He was of the same opinion that the military (read Army) should change "its culture" and the people would believe in the presence of internal reform in the military organization only if it shows concrete actions in the field.

According to him, the people would give their sympathy if the military was committed to surrender officers and retired generals who were allegedly involved in human rights abuses in Aceh, Papua, East Timor, and in the Tanjung Priok case and July 26 tragedy. (rms)

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