Subject: For TNI, It's 'Business' As Usual: Think Tank

The Jakarta Post Thursday, November 1, 2007

Business as Usual for Military, Says Group

Alfian, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

To understand the extent of the Indonesian Military (TNI)'s business network, it is necessary for regional administrations to undertake a thorough inventory of military-linked companies in their areas, observers said Wednesday.

"The (central) government should immediately ask regional administrations to take an inventory of military businesses in their respective regions," Edy Prasetyono of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said during the launch of a book on the TNI's businesses.

The title of the book is, Metamorphose of Military Business: The Mapping of TNI Businesses after the Enactment of the Law on the Indonesian Military.

"Military businesses outside Jakarta are more difficult to detect because they are often divided into smaller business entities. Moreover, NGO activists in the regions focus their attention more on cases of human rights violations allegedly committed by the military, rather than their business practices," he said.

The book, published by the Ridep Institute, evaluates the implementation of the 2004 law on the TNI, which bans the military from engaging in business.

The book is the result of two years of research and investigation by Ridep in several regions, including Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, Central Sulawesi's Poso regency and Bali.

Ridep program director Muradi said it was business as usual for the military in the regions.

"Although the law has been in effect for three years, military businesses keep on running as usual in regions outside Jakarta," he said.

Ridep found there are about 1,200 business units outside Jakarta belonging to the TNI.

"But fewer than 100 of these business units are healthy," said Muradi.

The military has a wide range of businesses. Ridep even found in its investigations that the military is involved in a circus in Surakarta.

Ridep says that instead of getting out of business, the military has simply changed its business tactics.

The institute said the military has reduced its shares in companies to less than Rp 20 billion, in order to keep a lower profile and act more behind the scenes.

Ridep says the military has also "eliminate" assets by selling them or putting the business units into bankruptcy. It then transfers the units other parties, while still maintaining actual control of the businesses.

Edy of the CSIS called on the military to shed its business interests.

"Once the military is financially independent, it can be a power with its own agenda," he said.

He said the military's involvement in business affected its professionalism because soldiers' loyalty was based on economic interests.

"Studies suggest that military involvement in business, such as in Africa and Latin America, makes them unable to do their job professionally."

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