Subject: Kontras: TNI Reform: No More Business as Usual

The Jakarta Post

Friday, October 17, 2008


TNI Reform: No More Business as Usual

by Usman Hamid and Syaiful Haq, Jakarta

In his remarks during the ceremony to mark the 63rd anniversary of the Indonesian Military (TNI) in Surabaya on Tuesday, TNI Chief Gen. Djoko Santoso reported briefly on the five-point implementation of TNI's internal reform agenda over the past 10 years:

TNI's neutrality in politics, the cessation of its involvement in business, the reform of the military tribunal, the improvement of soldiers' welfare and TNI professionalism.

Let us try to evaluate Gen. Djoko's report.

The success of TNI reform is a normative one. The implementation of reform has only gone a quarter of the way down the long road to genuine transformation.

It is still weighed down by the New Order paradigm, which is related to the 1960s domestic political struggle and the threat of communism within the context of the Cold War.

This is clearly reflected in various documents and facts found in the field, including the Defense White Book published in 2008. The dominant perception during the past 10 years is one that views the domestic sphere as the source of a security threat, a view that has hindered the transformation of the organization into a more professional one.

First of all, the success of eliminating the TNI's political role should not be measured by the revocation of the TNI's seats in the parliament (DPR). It also needs to be signified by the loss of military domination in the formulation of the state's political policies.

Although the TNI's presence in the parliament ceased in 2004, the stipulations in certain legal instruments such as the Law on the TNI and Law on the Truth and Reconciliation Committee show the strong influence the armed forces continue to wield.

In the Law on the TNI, for example, several of the TNI's old positions, such as the presence of territorial command (koter) and the "functionality" function, are still justified. The Law on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which was expected to be a medium to resolve past human right violations within the framework of TNI's institutional reform, was found to be an example of a problematic political product and revoked by the Constitutional Court.

The TNI still maintains the Army's territorial command structure, such as Kodam (military regional command), Korem (military regiment command), Kodim (the military district command) and Babinsa (village guidance), whereas the 1998 reform demands the retraction of the military "dual function" and the removal of territorial command structure. The Armed Forces Faction in the parliament was abolished in 2004 but the territorial command remained.

This decision set the TNI further apart from its need to adjust to the global strategic environment, which has the prerequisite of attaining an ideal defense posture appropriate to the challenges of the 21st century.

This means that it should not be dependent on ground defense, but rather on a technology-based and integrated defense system between the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. This is the agenda to push for, because TNI reform needs to be directed by the more general agenda of security system reform, by setting up the National Defense Assembly (DPN), which has still not been established.

The DPN is crucial to synergize the whole security policy framework with the policies of other sectors in order to establish the welfare and well-being of the people. This is an agency that should be the medium for all actors to determine together the direction of the defense policy.

Second, the political regulation succeeded in prohibiting the TNI from engaging in business. However, during its implementation, the state was slow in taking over the TNI's businesses.

Amid the delayed implementation, the state has neglected to take action against ongoing business practices, and even failed to stop the transfer of the TNI's assets to private parties. There appears to be a large amount of the state's assets used by the TNI that have been misused for illegal objectives.

Third, the delay in amending the Law on the Military Tribunal has caused the low public accountability of the TNI before the law. TNI members and the former officers of the military still have access to special treatment when they are brought before the court.

Various forms of denial have been dealt with, whether by utilizing political history claims, gaps in laws or influence or power. This culture of impunity is hard to eliminate, and one of the causes is that the Law on Military Tribunal has never been revised.

In many cases, military tribunals are used as a mechanism to calm public protest without any guarantee for the delivery of justice. The process of promotion to strategic positions in the TNI does not give enough consideration to a person's human rights record. Thus impunity and military violence endure, which demonstrates the strong influence of the TNI on the national political stage.

Fourth, soldiers' welfare only serves as a political commodity to ask for an increase in the defense budget, even to legitimize illegal practices. The welfare of the soldiers has never been achieved because, since the beginning, there has never been any serious effort exerted on behalf of the government to achieve it.

The government submitted a draft bill on the TNI without inserting any stipulation on soldiers' welfare, even though that is a crucial consideration when one seeks to achieve professionalism within the TNI as the state's instrument for defense. The argument that TNI businesses would increase the capacity and welfare of the soldiers is a bifurcation of truth, because the profit has always been enjoyed by a few elites in the TNI.

Fifth, the TNI's professionalism can be built through the modernization of the weapon system's main instrument (alutsista). However, the development of state defense policy such as this will require a large budget.

The development of professionalism can be done by making the organization efficient, such as by eliminating territorial command, or by limiting the system to only the border areas and the outermost islands.

We appreciate all that has been achieved during the decade of TNI reform. However, to increase this to achieve thorough transformation of the TNI, the government and the parliament must act on the above mentioned issues. The main problem is the paradigm change in formulating the state defense strategic policies.

The writers work for the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras).

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