Thu, 05 Oct 2000

Indonesia must curb TNI omnipresence

The excessive reach of the Indonesian Military (TNI), from the lowest level of village administration to top-level security affairs, is to blame for conflicts of authority with the police as well as infringement of civilian rights. An overhaul of this territorial organization should be included in the military's political repositioning plans, says Samsu Rizal Panggabean of the Center for Security and Peace Studies at Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University.

Question: Your assessment of the military today?

Answer: There have been a number of changes. First, the reduction in the number of its representatives in the House of Representatives. I think it's something.

Second, for the first time in the last 40 years we have had civilian ministers of defense. Third, Bakostranasda (the internal security agency) has been dissolved.

Fourth, in the past the military always sided with Golkar, but refrained from doing so in the 1999 elections. There are also plans for a repositioning which, more or less, can be seen as a sign of readiness to adjust to change. Some may think it's too late, but at least now they have the will.

Q: What is the biggest concern in the military?

A: There are a few major problems, the first of which is the territorial organization. TNI's territorial presence, from the Babinsa (military officers attached to subdistricts or villages), the Koramil (military subdistrict command), the Kodim (military district command), the Korem (military resorts at certain provinces), and finally the Kodam (regional command) to its highest commanders should be reduced.

Such a territorial presence is a hindrance to police handling domestic security problems -- in the past this has led to friction between the two. Police investigations and law enforcement are often "chaotic" because of the presence of military personnel. The territorial presence also causes conflict of authority and competition.

In addition, the (pervasive) presence has led to interference in the lives of civilians.

Q: How are we going to reduce this presence?

A: There should be gradual efforts to do away with this hierarchy (territorial structure). Of course it will take time.

Another thing related to this (omnipresence) is the military doctrine of Hankamrata (the involvement of civilians in defense). We need to review and change the doctrine. It's an outdated concept, formed on the basis of our experience in the guerrilla war for independence. This doctrine is actually the basis of the territorial hierarchy now implemented by the military.

The Indonesian Military has to declare it will obey the democratic civilian government ... (and) respect civilian authority. This should be clearly defined in the law.

Q: Isn't the recent decision to separate the police from the military enough to prevent conflict of authority?

A: It should have been enough. But, if we ask the police whether they agreed to being separated from the military, they would certainly say the question was misleading. It was not a question of separating the police from the military but the other way around.

In some regions, people prefer to go to military commanders rather than the police to report a crime. That's why I strongly suggest that the territorial hierarchy of the military be erased.

If they sincerely want to give the police authority to handle domestic security affairs while letting the military handle external security, why then should there be rayon, district, resort, and regional military commands. All these koramil, kodim, korem, and kodam assume that the enemies are among the people.

Military intelligence, too, should no longer spy on Indonesian people or mess around with NGOs. It's external enemies that they should deal with, not the citizens of their own country.

A clear division of tasks between the police and the military should be clearly mentioned in the law. Otherwise, the reform agenda will go nowhere and people will continue to doubt TNI's repositioning plans.

Q: Does it mean the changes already undertaken were meaningless?

A: Of course not. Only, we want them (military) to be more effective, meaning that if the government asks them to do something, they will obey.

The government has repeatedly told the international community that Indonesia was capable of handling the East Timor militias. This has remained a promise so far, indicating the military's failure to obey the government.

This is because the military is now divided. It's not solid... it's experiencing a demoralization. In this world, a military experiencing demoralization is the most dangerous military. In Irian (Jaya), for example, military members fought with members of the police mobile brigade. In Kupang and Ambon, they fought one another.

Q: Any suggested solutions?

A: The line of command, especially in the conflict areas such as Aceh, Irian and Ambon, is often not upheld. What the Indonesian Military Commander says can probably reach only as far as the district level. Even in regions such as Surakarta (Central Java) or Jakarta, during a riot, the hierarchy of command is also unclear.

In this case, the Indonesian Military Commander has to be strict and punish members who violate the law. He should bring them to court and give them fair trials. Justice should be upheld.(Sri Wahyuni)