Fri, 15 Sep 2000

Military retains resources to make come back: Report

JAKARTA (JP): Despite its waning political influence, the military -- especially the Army -- retains several "political resources" which could enable it to come back in the future, an international policy research group warned in a recent report.

The Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a 26-page report titled Indonesia: Keeping the Military Under Control that those resources were the Army's relatively intact territorial structure, significant control over domestic political intelligence and access to substantial sources of funds that were not subject to external scrutiny.

ICG said that through its territorial structure, the Army maintains the military units in every province, district and subdistrict throughout the country.

"This provides it with the means to influence political developments at every level of the government," the report, which was released early this month, said.

Indonesian Military (TNI) comprises Army, Navy and Air Force, with personnel numbering around 500,000. The Army is predominant.

The report said that during the three-decade rule of former president Soeharto, territorial troops were used "to break strikes, remove villagers from their land, crush student protests and, every five years, ensure overwhelming Golkar victories in general elections".

"As long as this territorial structure remains in place, the Army leadership will have at their disposal an instrument that has been used in the past to further the military's political objectives and could be used again," it said.

It added that the Army's strong representation in state and military intelligence agencies was also significant as they continued to focus on domestic political and social affairs.

"The intelligence agencies undoubtedly made a crucial contribution to the durability of the New Order regime. They were used during the Soeharto era to repress political opposition," the report said, referring to the State Intelligence Coordinating Agency (Bakin) and the Strategic Intelligence Agency (Bais), previously known as the Armed Forces Intelligence Agency (BIA).

It said that "the culture of Bais in the past was far from democratic, with military intelligence officers prominent among those who were alleged to have been involved in human rights abuses".

ICG said it was also widely believed in "Jakarta elite circles" that officers associated with Bais were among those who may be stirring up ethnic and other violence as a means to destabilize civilian government".

"As long as the intelligence agencies remain dominated by military officers whose values and attitudes were shaped during the Soeharto era, the democratization process will remain vulnerable to the kind of black operations that they have commonly sponsored in the past," it said.

Last but not least, ICG said, access to finances is a crucial political resource military officers continue to have.

It said that as long as the state budget supplies only 25 percent to 30 percent of the required funds, military units will continue to seek funding from other sources.

"This opens up the possibility that military commanders can gain access to large sums of money that could be used to finance political operations," the ICG report said.

ICG therefore said that it was necessary for the government to ensure that "non-budgetary funds are properly supervised by an agency outside the military itself", such as the State Audit Agency (BPK).

ICG was quick to note in the report, however, that despite these political resources, "it is not possible for the military to regain control of the government in the near future".

"It is too far fragmented to act cohesively; it lacks confidence in its capacity to provide answers to Indonesia's manifold challenges; and most importantly, its leaders know that any attempt to restore its political power would almost certainly trigger massive demonstrations throughout the country, which could easily turn into riots - which they are unsure, in turn, of their capacity to handle," ICG said.

It concluded that strong and effective civilian institutions were the best guarantee against the return of the military.

"If civilian government is successful, the military is not likely to challenge civilian authority," it said.

Founded five years ago, the ICG is a private, multinational organization committed to strengthening the international community to anticipate and understand conflicts as well as working at preventing and containing them.

The full report on the Indonesian Military, as well as two earlier ones on the political crisis in Indonesia and the Maluku conflict, are available from ICG's website:

ICG board members include former Indian prime minister Inder Gujral, former Israeli prime minister and 1994 Nobel laureate Shimon Peres, renowned businessman George Soros and Indonesian lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis.

The organization currently operates field projects in nine crisis-affected countries worldwide: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Macedonia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Algeria, Burundi, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia. (byg)