Thu, 25 Dec 2003

Banish the hope of military reform

Kusnanto Anggoro Senior Researcher Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Jakarta

As the military's official political role prepares to end in 2004, questions remain as to why the armed forces are withdrawing from politics and how this will further develop and affect democratic reform.

While the Indonesian Military (TNI) will remain a power to be reckoned with, the answers to these questions could very well be not too positive for democratic consolidation. Perhaps the new threats to political transition will not come from a direct involvement of the military in the political process, but from an antipolitics, yet autonomous military, amid an increasing militarization of civilian institutions.

Indeed, there are substantial changes which pare down the TNI's influence.

Since the downfall of Soeharto, active officers have been prohibited from being elected or appointed to the civilian government. About 2,000 military representatives have been removed from central and regional legislatures, as have 3,000 to 4,000 active military officers from the civilian bureaucracy. No less significant, military officers tried in civilian courts for human rights abuses subjects them to the rule of law.

In the meantime, there is also an emerging tendency of the militarization of civilian institutions.

Retired generals in political parties are rising on the political horizon. The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), the Golkar Party, the National Awakening Party (PKB) and the National Mandate Party (PAN) have recruited the generals. Many newly established political parties, such as the Concern for the Nation Functional Party (PKPB), under the leadership of former Army chief army Gen. (ret) Hartono, have emerged out of nowhere.

Many retired generals have also won considerable support as candidates for the Regional Representatives Councils, and in the race to select a Golkar presidential candidate, villainous retired generals reappeared from the woodwork, including Wiranto and Prabowo Subianto. Meanwhile, senior officers make private overtures to other candidates as was done in the 1999 elections, primarily to protect their interests despite the vote's outcome.

The 2004 elections will certainly give more of a militaristic flavor to government policy. Of course, this is not an indication that the TNI would again overshadow their civilian counterparts, nor should it be read as the TNI's grand design to thwart the democratic process. TNI Headquarters has no official connection to retired generals any more, although some prominent retired generals have managed to maintain personal ties with active generals. In addition, while the military will lose its 38 non- elected seats in the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) in 2004, its rank and file will not cast their votes in the elections.

What we see is that the depoliticization of the military is happening concurrently with the militarization of civilian institutions. Undoubtedly, this may strengthen the militaristic predilection in the government. The chief of the Armed Forces is still a cabinet member, along with the National Police chief.

Throughout 2003, military institutions have appeared to set the agenda in many policy cases, such as in the draconian Anti- Terrorism Bill and decisions on emergency rule in Aceh. More importantly, earlier in the year, generals pushed for a controversial article in the Military Bill.

Very likely, this militarization tendency will eventually spread to provincial administrations. Now that the process of decentralization is well under way, the military's territorial network could take on a greater significance than ever before. Initial signs are already ominous. In Central Java, for example, around half of the 17 members of Muspida, a grouping of top provincial administrators, are active military officers, and includes the commanders of the local airfield, mobile brigade, and military police.

The threat to democracy is that the military leadership may somehow manipulate it to increase the ambit of its authority throughout the country. This is plausible, since several figures in military institutions, including the Ministry of Defense, have been arguing that the military's role in internal security should be restored to deal with the threat of separatism and other security problems. In addition, while the fragmentation of political power is becoming even more prominent, local politics will lead to new alliances between regional commanders and regional power-holders.

Parallel to these developments is the apparent successes of the TNI at a national level to secure their ideological stance, historical fixation, corporate interests and, of course, interests in material power.

Just look at the development of the constitutional amendments. Especially during the second and third amendments, the military succeeded in securing their ideological fixations of a unitary state, total defense and other issues. Inclusion of the Jakarta Charter in the Preamble (of the 1945 Constitution) failed, constitutionally maintaining Indonesia as a non-Islamic state.

Even if there was to be another constitutional amendment, Indonesia will remain a united state (Article 37.5). The Unitary State of Indonesia under Pancasila (Negara Kesatuan RI berdasarkan Pancasila) should remain unchangeable.

Article 30 of the amended constitution locks in their doctrine of total defense (Sistem Hankamrata). All in all, the military appears to have secured their fixation with the revolutionary guerrilla doctrine.

At the corporate level, the military appears to be relatively successful in guaranteeing its impunity and other independent gestures. The second amendment to the Constitution is non- retroactivity Article 28I), which thus protects the military from right abuses it may have committed.

Meanwhile, the report by the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) on foundations owned by the military were shelved at the House of Representatives (DPR). In the procurement cases of the Sukhoi fighters and KAL 35 patrol boats, military authorities dealt directly with their partners instead of acting merely as executors of the Ministry of Defense.

Thus, we observe a very interesting trajectory of military politics in Indonesia. Needless to say, the abolition of military representation in the legislature is a major step toward democratic reform. However, this is apparently being balanced out by a possible increasing role at local levels. There will always be opportunities through which the military may reassert their political power.

It is unclear whether the 2004 elections will bring forth a government that has the intention and capability to further reform the military. So far, military reform has been internally induced and as such, it assures nothing as it lacks specifics -- despite the use of terms like "professionalism" and "civilian supremacy" -- and is simply an attempt to deflect real change in favor of window dressing.

Everywhere around the globe, the military is, according to British military historian Michael Howard, "the most conservative creature in the world" that will only change after it is too late. Even a widely known reformist general believes that specific reform measures are a matter for civilian government alone; that military reform provisions should be part of a comprehensive and complicated constitutional reform process; and that entrenched bureaucratic, political and commercial interests must be reformed before the TNI will consider ceding its power.

Surely, strong and credible political leadership is needed to impose its will on the military. Unfortunately, this is simply not on the cards in the 2004 elections. Shall we banish the hope for military reform?

Kusnanto Anggoro is also a lecturer at the postgraduate studies program University of Indonesia.