Mon, 22 Dec 2003

Army told to improve accountability, skill

A'an Suryana, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Army, which is the most dominant service within the ranks of the Indonesian Military (TNI), has been praised for keeping its distance from politics and better respecting human rights.

However, those virtues alone are not enough to improve the Army's tainted image, according to a military analyst. "In order to win the people's hearts, the corps has to improve its financial transparency and technical professionalism," Kusnanto Anggoro, a military analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

Kusnanto was interviewed to mark the Army's anniversary, which fell on Dec. 15 but will be celebrated on Monday.

The lack of financial transparency, according to Kusnanto, is evident in the Army's budgetary procedures. The publicly released budget figures often do not reflect actual military expenditure, since extrabudgetary funds contribute significantly to military expenditure, he said.

Data obtained by the Post reveals that extrabudgetary funds were used, for example, to purchase a squadron of A-4 combat aircraft and four landing ship tanks (LSTs) in the late 1970s.

Some of the extrabudgetary funds are obtained from legitimate businesses, including hotels and airlines, run by seven foundations belonging to the Army. The businesses -- some 50 military-owned in all -- generate revenue and provide extra funds for the military to finance its operations and altogether improve the welfare of personnel, notably generals.

"But the problem is that there is no transparency in the use of the funds," said Kusnanto, who feared that the lack of transparency in the fund use could lead to corruption.

Besides the lack of financial transparency, low technical competence is another problem the Army has to deal with. Technical competence refers to the modern war machines the Army possesses as well as the ability of soldiers to win a war, Kusnanto said without going into detail.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu has expressed concern that the fatalities among his soldiers in the military operation in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam were largely due to the low combat ability of his personnel.

In order to develop the combat ability of its personnel, the Army recently formed and trained 10 battalions of Raider combat troops, comprising 8,000 soldiers, who will be inducted on Monday.

Separately, former Army deputy chief Lt. Gen. (ret) Kiki Syahnakri acknowledged that the Army had not been financially transparent in the past, especially in regards to the running of its foundations, but he said that it had been rectified.

In order to minimize the possibility of the misuse of power and corruption, for example, the Army has prohibited the Army chief of staff from heading the foundations, with the position of leading the foundations being given to retired servicemen instead.

He said it would be very difficult to close the foundations' businesses, unless the government provided enough money for the Army to improve the welfare of its soldiers and cover its expenses for military operations.

He said the Army was in a transitional period.

"At least the Army has promised in a white paper publicly released recently that one day it will refrain from business activities," he told the Post. Reform -- Page 6