Sat, 12 Apr 2003

Lawmakers back revisions to MPR decrees on defense

Tiarma Siboro, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The military's attempt to revise Decrees No. 6/2000 and No. 7/2000 of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), the country's highest legislative body, has received strong backing from members of the House of Representatives (DPR).

MPR Decree No. 6/2000 establishes the National Police and the Indonesian military (TNI) as two separate entities, while Decree No. 7/2000 relegates TNI to the role of national defense only.

During the 32 years of rule under former president Soeharto, TNI was also responsible for domestic peace and order, which allowed the institution, especially the Army, to play a dominant role in the country.

TNI recently launched a white paper on national defense which highlights the polemic on the distinction between security and defense, wherein security falls under the jurisdiction of the police, while defense falls under military jurisdiction.

The white paper calls for the scrapping of the distinction and allowing the military to participate actively in bringing about peace and order in the country, where religious and ethnic conflicts have become the norm.

Legislators Sutradara Gintings and Djoko Susilo said on Friday that the implementation of the decrees had so far caused only confusion between TNI and the police.

"The two decrees were oversimplified because the people are still traumatized by military involvement in issues that should be the responsibility of civilian leaders," Gintings said.

Djoko said the distinction between security and defense should not be seen as a distinction of jurisdiction, in which the first belonged to domestic affairs while the latter referred to foreign threats, as the oversimplification would affect both the police and the military when they carried out their duties on the field.

"The division of roles between the police and military should be based on the kind of threat itself. If the threat deals with law and order, then the police should be the front line, even if such threats come from outside the country. Once the country faces armed threats, be it an armed separatist movement or a foreign invasion, then we must order the military to handle it," Djoko told The Jakarta Post by telephone.

Meanwhile, military analyst Salim Said said the revisions should focus on the positions of the military chief and the police chief, in line with the country's administrative system.

"Should we insist on putting the military and the police in their places, TNI should be placed under the Ministry of Defense, while the police should be under the (as yet non-existent) Ministry of Police. These two ministries, along with the president, will make policies in regards the functions of these two institutions. Thus, the military and the police just need to obey and follow," Salim told the Post.