Wed, 17 May 2000

Army to raise money to improve soldiers' welfare

JAKARTA (JP): Internal reforms now underway will allow the Army to raise trust funds for use in improving the welfare of its personnel, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Tyasno Sudarto said on Tuesday.

Speaking after opening the Army leadership annual meeting, Tyasno said trust funds were worth looking into since the government was unable to provide a sufficient military budget.

"The raising of trust funds is necessary because the government cannot allocate an adequate budget to improve servicemen's welfare," he said.

He said the trust funds would be used to provide affordable housing for lower-income servicemen and scholarships for their children.

Tyasno would not elaborate on how the Army planned to raise the funds.

So far, besides cooperatives, the Army's Special Force (Kopassus) and the Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad) have their own air and land transportation businesses. Many have criticized military businesses, saying they violate the military's defense function.

Military enterprises date back to 1950s as a means for a commander to improve his soldiers' welfare.

Tyasno said the improvement of servicemen's welfare was one of the Army's internal reforms to repair its battered image.

"The Army is preparing an internal and external action plan as an integral part of the fundamental reforms in the military," he said.

Also attending the day-long meeting were senior officials at Army Headquarters, Kostrad chief Lt. Gen. Agus Wirahadikusumah, Kopassus chief Maj. Gen. Sjahrir M.S. and all the regional military commanders.

Tyasno said the Army would continue to apply military discipline to servicemen in the force, and those who were found violating the law would be tried immediately.

He said training programs in all Army units would also be intensified in order to improve professionalism.

"All Army soldiers will be instructed to undergo routine training to improve their skills. Army professionalism has been in decline because many servicemen skip training programs due to frequent assignments outside the military organization," he said.

Tyasno also said all Army units were obliged to establish good communication with people in their local environment in an effort to win their hearts.

"Besides, Army units have been instructed to intensify civic work missions to help development programs in urban and rural areas," he said.

He said the Army were planning to change the color of their current uniforms, which were considered to make the people feel scared, to light green.

"The new uniforms are part of the Army's step to get closer to the people," he said.

The general said the Army has published a white book con taining the force's programs over the next five years to improve its image.

"The book describes the Army's image in the future," he said.

He said the Army would continue to help the National Police, if needed, to provide a security guarantee for local and foreign investors.

"Our joint main mission is to maintain defense and security and to make the country safe for investors," he said.

Meanwhile, Indria Samego, a military observer from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), said the President as the supreme commander of the Indonesian Military (TNI) should bar the military from running business enterprises, except cooperatives, because it was against the 1974 law on civil servants and servicemen.

"The military has long run businesses in many sectors and this is against the law because it stops servicemen focusing on their main jobs," he said.

To cite a few of many examples, he said Kostrad was one of the major shareholders in Mandala airlines, while Kopassus ran several ferries plying the Merak (West Java)-Baukehuni (Lampung) route.

The military should be allowed to set up cooperatives but they should be managed transparently and professionally, since most servicemen had yet to enjoy their annual profits.

"A large part of the cooperatives' profits have gone to certain groups in the military," said Indria, who published a book Bisnis Militer (Military Business) several years ago.

He said cooperatives were not prohibited because they were included within the military's overall structure. (rms)