Subject: Army Reform Key To Peaceful Sulawesi


Jakarta, 1 Nov. (AKI) - The solution for the strife-torn Indonesian province of Central Sulawesi lies elsewhere, in Jakarta, where the national government must push for a proper reform of the army, a leading analyst has told Adnkronos International (AKI).

"The government must put the TNI under full civilian authority; it must forbid it to engage in business and it must disband the territorial structure," said George Aditjiondro, who has closely followed developments in the area, where sectarian attacks have recently fuelled tension. He was referring to the pervasive presence of the armed forces across Indonesia.

This territorial structure was the means used by former dictator Suharto to keep control of Indonesia's vast and farflung territory during his 33 years of rule which ended with his overthrow in 1998. According to experts, the structure allows the TNI to influence local politicians and to act with impunity.

The reform of the TNI, which began in 1998, has proceeded in fits and starts in recent years.

"Until this is achieved, there will always be conflict areas, like Central Sulawesi," he added.

As well as guaranteeing a certain political weight at a national level, the conflict zones also offer economic opportunities which the military do not want to miss.

"Conflict brings always extra income. In Poso [the most turbulent area in Central Sulawesi] it is all about ebony. The trade of this wood is actually forbidden, but in Poso every middle or low rank TNI member is involved," he said.

"Generals instead earn thanks to collusion with the big industries that arrived in the area thanks to the conflict" he said, recalling that in Indonesia, the state provides only 30 percent of the annual budget of the army, which finances itself with a series of activities, both legal and illegal.

Without the conflict, anad therefore the presence of military forces, it would be much harder for some industries to overcome the opposition of the local people and operate in the area. "The TNI makes sure that protests are kept to a minimum" he concluded.

Among the latest beneficiaries of the tension in Poso the expert underlined two belonging to the Bukaka Teknik Utama, a conglomerate that is closely linked to the economic empire of the powerful vice president of Indonesia, Jusuf Kalla.

Central Sulawesi is one of the few provinces in Indonesia where the number of Christians and Muslims is more or less equal. It was the scene of violence sectarian clashes from 1998-2001 which caused 1000 deaths and forced 63,000 people to flee their homes. Despite the truce signed in December 2001, there have been sporadic episodes of violence. The latest clashes followed the execution of three Christians on 22 September for their role in the three years conflict.

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