Mon, 24 Feb 2003

Draft military bill may give more might to TNI

Tiarma Siboro, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The government has been preparing a controversial bill giving authority to the Indonesian military commander to deploy military personnel in an emergency without the approval of the president.

Ikrar Nusa Bhakti, a military observer from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), confirmed on Sunday that he was included in the government team to jointly prepare the bill with several teams from the Indonesian Military (TNI) Headquarters, Army, Navy and Air Force.

Ikrar said the teams had worked for almost a year but the bill had not been completed yet. Koesnanto Anggoro, a military analyst from the Centre for Strategic International Studies (CSIS) who was also included in the government team, declined to comment on the slow preparation of the bill.

But, reliable sources told The Jakarta Post that the joint teams' slow work was due to friction among team members over contentious issues in the bill. They were referring to Chapter 7 on the Army and Chapter 19 on the TNI commander's authority to deploy personnel in an emergency situation without approval from the president.

According to the sources, the Army has pulled out pro-reform soldiers from its team and replaced them with those who have an agenda to strive to project a more conservative role of the military in the bill.

They also said that the government team was on the brink of breakdown because the Army was determined to give a leading role to the military and more authority to the TNI commander and not to the defense minister nor the president in his or her capacity as the TNI supreme commander.

Ikrar warned against a powerful Army and possible abuse of power by a TNI commander if the contentious issues are not reviewed by the House of Representatives (read: the civilian).

He said the military's internal reform would be under threat if Chapter 7 was maintained because it stipulates the current military doctrine and operational strategy based on its territorial function.

The Army had abused its territorial function to keep its grip in politics during the 32-year New Order regime.

Ikrar also said a TNI commander could abuse his power or do something unlawful if he was allowed to deploy personnel in an emergency situation without any approval from the president.

"This article which gives authority to the TNI chief to deploy troops immediately prior to the president's approval is very hazardous because the TNI chief is also allowed to impose an emergency status on strife-torn regions," he said, adding that it was against the 1959 emergency law.

The amended Constitution stipulates that the president in his or her capacity as supreme commander of TNI has the authority to declare a state of emergency in conflict-torn regions after gaining approval from the House of Representatives.

"What will happen if the military deploys its troops to launch a coup against the legitimate government for the same reason?," he asked rhetorically.

The controversial issues in the military bill has been linked to the gathering of Army officials and retired generals in the Army Headquarters last week.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu who hosted the rare gathering disclosed a controversial demand for a possible return to the Army's former function of upholders of security besides the current defense function.

Ikrar said the military should no longer be given the opportunity to intervene in security affairs or politics and territorial affairs in order to allow them to be more professional in their function of defending the nation.

"Listen to Ryamizard's statement, we can see that the separation between the Police and the TNI has not brought about reformation within the two institutions. And it is not only the TNI that is moving slowly in reform, because the police themselves are currently promoting militarism within their own institution," he said.