Fri, 14 Jan 2000

Is TNI always to blame?

I was pleasantly surprised when I read a letter written by Irine Dewi Kurniati called TNI in the eyes of a layman in The Jakarta Post on Jan. 5, 2000. To me it was like drinking ice-cold Coca-Cola on a hot windless day.

The way she expressed her feelings was so sweet by saying when there is a member of the Indonesian Military (TNI) around she feels safe and secure. She guaranteed that she was telling the truth and nothing but the truth and on her own free will. Another expression of sympathy because of seeing the reality is stated by a retired Army man called Zainal Soepomo and a lady by the name of Cecilia. Both are neutral and are sad because the public is biased. They both expressed their opinions in the Rakyat Merdeka daily's Jan. 12, 2000 edition.

Compare her expression with what Dr. Muhammad Mahfud said in his hate for TNI: "In other countries, the state creates the Armed Forces, but in Indonesia the Armed Forces create the state".

Perhaps he is referring to an article from the Southeast Asian Journal of Social Sciences Vol. 15, No. 1/1987, which noted: "The newly organized government was reluctant to raise an Army, because it wanted to achieve independence peacefully". But there was nothing said about the Army creating a state.

Dr. Nasikun is more extreme and contrary to what was expressed by Irine. He said that people don't feel protected by the presence of the Indonesian Military.

TNI is looked down upon by the people, a feeling I think is inspired by certain politicians who feel their future and role in Indonesia threatened by the efficient and well-organized TNI.

It cannot be denied that some members of TNI have overacted and committed unforgivable atrocities which are to be regretted, but the people should not blame all of TNI and the National Police for being bad and disregarding humanity.

Another thing which people should consider is the situation at the particular time which perhaps forced TNI and the National Police to overact and show no mercy. It is perhaps a situation where there was no choice, a you-or-me or a lose-lose situation.

If people are honest they will accept the fact that individuals of non-TNI organizations have also violated human rights but the media sometimes closes their eyes, instead of reporting facts, taking a neutral objective position and being irrespective of who committed it.

I have the impression that only TNI can violate human rights but not the rebels that are in places such as Aceh or other parts of Indonesia, who kidnap and kill TNI members and innocent people. But the attention is only directed to violations by TNI and the National Police.

On top of all this, statements made by high-ranking officers, like the one made recently by the commander of the Army Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad), that the invitation to generals by the commission of Inquiry into Human Rights Violations (KPP HAM) hurt the soldiers' feelings. It gives the impression that our TNI soldiers are barbarians and people who hate TNI find moral support in this statement.

The essence is that members of TNI, like any other institution, make mistakes but that does not mean that the institution itself is bad. I hope that the letter from Irine will give some material for a rethinking in the appraisal of TNI. The community should help TNI to find it's real personality for the benefit of Indonesians.