Subject: SBY blasted for slow pace of military reforms

The Jakarta Post Saturday, September 23, 2006

SBY blasted for slow pace of military reforms

M. Taufiqurrahman, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is being accused of putting off long-awaited reforms of the powerful Indonesian Military (TNI).

The President still depends too much on the military for his political survival and possible reelection, said Indonesian Human Rights Watch (Imparsial).

In spite of Yudhoyono's rhetoric that the army must stay out of politics, the organization claimed, there was little proof that his words have been translated into actions.

"The most telling evidence is that on the same day the President spoke about the urgency of continuing military reform, one of his ministers balked at a proposal from the House of Representatives to try soldiers in civilian courts," Imparsial activist Al A'raf told a news conference here Friday.

He was referring to a speech made by Yudhoyono before a TNI leadership meeting Wednesday, in which he called on soldiers to stay away from political power struggles, respect law and human rights and carry on with internal reforms.

Earlier the same day during a meeting with the House of Representatives special committee on the amendment of the military tribunal law, Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono dismissed the committee's proposal that soldiers be tried in civilian courts for non-military crimes.

Juwono argued that such trials could compromise the country's defense system.

Al A'raf said there was a lot of work still to be done to revamp the military, despite Yudhoyono's pledge to pursue comprehensive reform.

He pointed to what he called the slow handover of businesses run by the military as another indication that Yudhoyono was reluctant to bring change to the TNI.

"The sluggishness and secretive nature of the handover clearly shows a lack of seriousness on the part of the government in taking over military-run businesses," he said.

The organization said another cause for concern was Yudhoyono's silence about TNI leaders' decision to allow active TNI personnel to vote in local elections.

It also criticized the slow pace of the phasing-out of the territorial command and the integration of the TNI into the Defense Ministry, and the failure to teach democracy and human rights to soldiers.

Imparsial suggested that as long as the military had not taken the proper steps toward change, it should not be given the right to vote in elections.

Allowing soldiers to exercise their voting rights in the current situation could lead to manipulations and abuses, it added.

Fellow activist Poengky Indarti said the President could be going easy on the TNI with an eye to the 2009 election.

"The military is still too powerful an institution and the President could hope to use it to tilt the political balance," she said.

------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service

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