Subject: 3 Reports: AT: Indonesian Military: The Powers That Be [+TNI Bill Endorsed]

also: Indonesia Endorses Bill on Powerful Military and Indonesia Parliament Passes Military Bill

Asia Times Friday, October 1, 2004

Indonesian Military - the Powers That Be

By Richel Langit

JAKARTA - At a glance, it seems Indonesia's powerful military finally has completed its reform campaign by withdrawing from politics completely. On Thursday, the 38 members of the military/police faction, which has dominated the country's political life for over the past 40 years, officially quit the People's Consultative Assembly and the House of Representatives.

A closer look at the departure, however, makes the military's so-called political withdrawal appear as a tactical retreat rather than a complete abandoning of political life. The election of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as the country's next president also is evidence that the military's departure from politics is far from complete.

The military's long-awaited departure from the country's two highest legislative bodies and regional legislatures nationwide caps a series of reforms the Indonesian Military (TNI) has undertaken since the downfall of former strongman Suharto in May 1998.

Demands for the TNI to return to their barracks and become professional soldiers forced the military in 1998 to scrap their territorial and socio-political roles by abolishing the military chiefs' territorial and socio-political commands.

The so-called territorial function allowed the military to deploy troops down to the district level, where for more than three decades they were mobilized to coerce the people into supporting Suharto's iron-fisted leadership.

Their socio-political role, on the other hand, paved the way for active military officers to engage in practical politics. Often, civilian politicians contesting general elections were forced to undergo screening by military personnel to determine whether they were involved in the outlawed Indonesian Communist Party. In practice, the screening often was used to get rid of Suharto's critics and potential challengers. The military was then used by Suharto as a tool to suppress his political opponents.

Realizing its mistake, the military embarked on reforming its role within the legislature in 1998 by first scrapping its territorial and political roles. The military's exit from the legislative bodies will complete the reform process.

Already the 38 members of the military/police faction in both the Assembly and the House have made farewell speeches. During the recently concluded annual Assembly session, they thanked their fellow lawmakers for the cooperation and help extended to them during their political stints.

But before dissolving into oblivion, the House, including the military/police faction members, endorsed the new military bill, which allows active military officers to take up civilian posts in the Coordinating Ministry of Political and Security Affairs, the Defense Ministry, the president's Military Secretariat Office, the national resilience agency, state intelligence, state code, the National Defense Council, state search and rescue, the national narcotics agency and even the Attorney General's Office.

Initially the bill, which was jointly deliberated by the House and the government, proposed that active military officers be allowed to occupy civilian posts in the bureaucracy, but the House rejected the idea. In the final draft, both the House and the government agreed that active military officers may fill civilian posts that require military capability.

The bill also places the military directly under the president, putting it on par with cabinet ministries. The proposal by military observers and some factions in the House to place the military under the Defense Ministry was rejected by the government, which was represented by the Coordinating Ministry of Political and Security Affairs, the Defense Ministry and the TNI itself. Such a high position will allow the military to intervene and influence government policies, including political decisions.

While the bill places the TNI under the president, the head of state has little say in the deployment of troops across the country. One of the articles, for example, stipulates that in deploying military personnel and using military force, the TNI is accountable to the president only after the fact; the TNI does not ask permission from the president to deploy troops, it only reports its actions after the decision has been made.

This vague article will give leeway to the military to act on its own without necessarily informing or asking permission from the head of state. This will also give room to the military to reinstate its territorial role, allowing it to engage in practical politics at the regional level.

The bill also fails to state explicitly that the TNI has to seek permission or approval from the president, who by constitution is the chief commander of Indonesia's armed forces, in deploying and using military force.

Prior to the first round of the presidential election on July 5, TNI chief General Endriartono Sutarto issued a ruling withdrawing all active military officers from civilian posts, including some from the Coordinating Ministry of Political and Security Affairs. Existing regulations also stipulate that military personnel wishing to occupy civilian posts have to resign from the military service.

To highlight further the military's distance from politics, Sutarto banned military personnel from casting their votes in the three elections held in the country since April.

Interestingly, the House and the government rushed to finish deliberating the bill after Yudhoyono, a retired four-star army general, emerged as the clear winner of the country's first-ever direct presidential election. Yudhoyono, whose political advisers are mostly retired military generals, is heading for a landslide victory over incumbent Megawati Sukarnoputri.

The bill's deliberations started in the fourth week of August and had appeared to head for a deadlock until results of the September 20 runoff trickled in, showing Yudhoyono far ahead of Megawati. With more than 110 million ballots counted so far, Yudhoyono, who campaigned for change and security stability, already has 60.9% of the vote, compared with Megawati's 39%. More than 153 million people registered for the runoff, of whom some 125 million were believed to have cast their votes.

But though he is headed for a landslide victory, Yudhoyono does not have the necessary political machinery to support his policies. His Democratic Party and its allies have slightly over 60 seats out of 550 in the House while the opposition controls more than 300 seats in the House. Chances are that the opposition will use its strength to shoot down virtually all proposals and initiatives introduced by Yudhoyono's administration.

In the meantime, expectations are running high for Yudhoyono to resolve Indonesia's multidimensional crises that have plagued the country since 1997. The pressure is now high for Yudhoyono to fulfill his campaign pledges to restore peace and order and bring the country out of its economic doldrums.

Such a hostile condition is likely to force Yudhoyono to turn to the military for political support. There is no doubt that the military, which has controlled the country's political life for the past 40 years, continues to be the most influential entity in Indonesia. Aligning himself with the military appears to be necessary for Yudhoyono's political survival. However, such a backing would not come without political concessions on the part of Yudhoyono.

As the House endorses the new military bill, which will automatically take effect one month from Thursday's approval, with or without the president's signature, active military officers are ready to take up civilian posts in strategic government offices and high-ranking state institutions. Judging from their past actions, it is hard to imagine that military officers active in the government would refrain from influencing state policies issued by the Yudhoyono administration.

So despite the military's departure from the Assembly and the House, as mandated by the amended 1945 constitution, the TNI as an institution is ready to influence the government, and thus the country's political life, from within the government itself. Moreover, the TNI's departure from the country's two highest legislative bodies should not be understood as a complete withdrawal from politics but a tactical retreat to tighten its grip on Indonesia's political life. It is not surprising, therefore, that the national media paid little attention to the military/police faction's farewell speeches.

Richel Langit is a freelance journalist based in Jakarta. She covers various topics including education, health, the environment and political issues. She worked as a reporter for the Manila Times in the Philippines for five years before moving to the Indonesian capital in 1999.


Associated Press September 30, 2004

Indonesia Endorses Bill on Powerful Military

Indonesia's parliament on Thursday approved a landmark law on the military that allows the top brass to retain some of their powers, but forces them to surrender their widespread business enterprises within five years.

The bill, aimed at defining the role of the military after the downfall of former dictator Gen. Suharto in 1998, was seen as a compromise between the demands of rights groups who want the military under total civilian control and those of generals keen to keep their privileges.

The wide-ranging legislation also gives the military an undefined role in "overcoming terrorist acts" in the world's most populous Muslim nation, as it struggles against al-Qaida-linked terror groups.

In recent weeks, the military has said it should have a larger role in the anti-terror fight, which is currently the preserve of the police and the national intelligence agency.

During his 32-year-reign, Suharto used the military to quell any government opposition and granted serving officers key government and legislative posts.

"This law fulfills demands for military reforms," said legislator Ibrahim Ambong, chairman of the parliament commission that drafted the bill. "The public fears that reforms stalled were baseless."

Home affairs minister, Hari Sabarno, welcomed the new law, saying: "It is good that the military now has the legislative umbrella to conduct its functions."

The law, which was watered down after months of complaints by rights activists, states that only the president has the power to declare war, but stops short of putting the military under the authority of the civilian run Defense Department.

Earlier drafts of the law stated the military chief could declare war under exceptional circumstances.

The new law bars serving soldiers from being involved in politics, but allows them to hold senior positions in the civilian bureaucracy if the "position requires military skills."

"It is the first step (toward full civilian control) but definitely not the final one," said Munarman, from the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation. "There are still many loopholes where the military could wrestle back power. We have to be careful." Munarman goes by a single name.

The military's territorial command structure _ which stretches to the village level across the archipelago and was used by Suharto to maintain his grip on power _ will remain in place, though under a different name, the bill says.

But the law requires that the military hand over its massive business interests _ which presently fund most of its budget _ to the government by 2009.

Currently these businesses include legal enterprises like hotels, as well as illegal endeavors like gambling, prostitution and logging in protected forests.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a former general who takes over the country's presidency Oct. 20, has said he would back moves to reform the military.

The law was the final task of the house, which was also officially dissolved Thursday to make way for newly elected legislators to take over Friday.


Indonesia Parliament Passes Military Bill

By Achmad Sukarsono, Reuters

JAKARTA, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Indonesia's parliament on Thursday passed a controversial bill that calls for the armed forces to play a role in the war against terrorism, but which has been crticised for being soft on reform.

The drafting of the bill -- intended to define the powerful military's functions following the downfall of former autocrat Suharto in 1998 -- took years because of criticism from human rights groups and politicians.

It was passed a day before the swearing in of a new house.

The bill seen by Reuters says the military must be involved in fighting terrorism in the world's most populous Muslim nation, a function mainly handled by police and the civilian intelligence agency in recent years.

The bill does not flesh out the role, but it could indicate the military is seeking special anti-terror powers.

Militants linked to al Qaeda exploded a car bomb outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta on Sept. 9, killing nine people. That followed other bomb attacks, including nightclub blasts in Bali in 2002 that killed 202 people.

Several points in the original bill have been watered down following pressure from rights groups, including sections on the territorial command, a structure that mimics a civilian administration and which reaches into districts across Indonesia.

Critics say the Suharto-era command is one of the biggest obstacles to reform because in keeps in place a direct link to Indonesia's authoritarian past, even if the military's actual powers have been partially clipped.

Originally, the bill kept the territorial command unaltered. Now, its name has been changed to "regional empowerment" while the military has been told to end its business interests within five years.

"The military is no longer free to do everything. Articles on the territorial command have been scrapped and replaced with regional empowerment," defence commission head Ibrahim Ambong, said on Thursday.

"They won't be similar to the old territorial functions."


Human rights groups said little had changed.

"Territorial commands, in essence, will still be condoned. They have not been radically erased," said Rusdi Marpaung, operational director of the Indonesian Human Rights Monitor.

"In conditions we have now, why should we have this system. Unless the country is in a state of emergency, such a system will open chances for the military to carry out functions outside defence. We want firm reforms, not half-hearted ones."

Indonesia's next president and himself a former general, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has promised to keep the hundreds of territorial commands. Indeed, Yudhoyono's last stint in uniform was to supervise the running of the structure.

Under former general Suharto, soldiers held posts in the cabinet, bureaucracy and across all layers of government. The territorial commands effectively ran the provinces.

The military defends the system, saying it is a vital link in Indonesia's national defence and a way to maintain close relations with ordinary people. It also helps intelligence gathering in the separatist provinces of Aceh and Papua.

Under separate reforms, the military will lose its 38 reserved seats in parliament on Friday, but analysts have always said that was never the source of its real power.

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