Sun, 22 Oct 2000

Gus Dur backs plan to revamp intelligence system

HONG KONG (JP): President Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid said here on Saturday he was fully supportive of the plan to reorganize the country's intelligence system.

Speaking during a refueling stop on his flight home from the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit in Seoul, the President said the decision was in particular aimed to avoid overlapping functions between the State Intelligence Coordinating Agency (Bakin) and the Indonesian Military's Strategic Intelligence Board (Bais).

"There are many reasons for the planned reorganization of the national intelligence system. First of all, so far, there has been no clear job description between Bakin and Bais; so, there is an overlapping in the duties of the two institutions," he said when asked to comment on the government's plan to improve the national intelligence's capacity.

Gus Dur said Bais would no longer handle political matters while Bakin, whose name would be changed into the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), would be given greater authority in its coordinative function.

"So, we want Bais to handle military matters while Bakin will cover other fields outside the military," he said.

He added all institutions handling state intelligence functions would be subordinate to Bakin.

The President said that in the present situation, it was no longer necessary for the intelligence agencies to tackle investigations into individual citizens, especially those who were allegedly involved in activities that could endanger order and security.

"So far, the intelligence agencies handle citizens. It's no longer necessary at present," he said.

Minister of Defense Mahfud M.D. previously spoke of his intention of establishing a defense ministry intelligence network to supply accurate information to the government.

The presidential plane which flew him and his entourage also made a stop-over in Singapore, where Abdurrahman held a one-hour meeting with former Singaporean prime minister Lee Kwan Yew at Changi international airport.

There was no immediate disclosure of the results of the talks which were off-limits to the news media.

Lee, who is credited with transforming affluent Singapore from a tiny backwater economy, has said it would take Indonesia, "the anchor member" of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), several years to recover from its current problems.

But he has defended ASEAN's policy of non-interference in members' affairs saying it was not practical to solve the problems of another country "especially Indonesia."

Before heading to the ASEM in Seoul, Abdurrahman spent time in Malaysia meeting with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

The government's plan to revamp the intelligence system has sparked criticism and cautious reactions from many sides, including military observers.

In Jakarta, House Speaker Akbar Tandjung called on the government on Saturday to drop its plan because it would be ineffective and inefficient.

"To me, it's not necessary for the government to set up a new intelligence institution. It will be more efficient if the existing intelligence agencies improve their functions," Akbar said.

He said Bakin should be empowered to create strong coordination with intelligence agencies in the military, National Police and the Attorney General's Office to provide accurate information and analysis for the government.

"A weak intelligence agency is not a matter of system but management. The problem is how all the information and data supplied by intelligence agencies is analyzed," he said.

Maj. Gen. Ferry Tinggogoy, a member of the Indonesian Military/National Police faction at the House, said the government should set rules of the game among the intelligence agencies to avoid any overlapping in their tasks.

"The government must determine who or which institution is in charge of the intelligence agencies and set their respective job descriptions to avoid any duplication of tasks," he said.

He said further the government should also hike the defense budget because developing a strong national intelligence system would involve a lot of funds. (byg/rms)