Mon, 09 Oct 2000

Military's loyalty -- between words and deeds

In a speech marking the 55th anniversary of the Indonesian Military (TNI) on Thursday, President Abdurrahman Wahid, or Gus Dur, urged soldiers to pledge their loyalty to the state, not to individual leaders. The Jakarta Post discusses with political observer Kusnanto Anggoro of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies the relationship between the President and the military.

Question: How do you assess TNI's loyalty to the state?

Answer: TNI's loyalty should always be to the state. During the 32 years of Soeharto's rule the military pledged its loyalty not to the state, but to Pak Harto. But then, because everybody thought Pak Harto personified the state, to be loyal to the state meant being loyal to Pak Harto. That went for just about everyone, not only the military.

Today, as long as we are talking about the TNI as an institution, there should be no problem with TNI's loyalty. Its revised doctrine, announced on April 20, states that TNI obeys and supports the concept of civil supremacy.

The problem emerges when the doctrine is not fully implemented because there is no unity in TNI's leadership.

Weaknesses in the chain of command have also meant that orders from the top are not carried out in the field. Aceh, Maluku and Atambua are cases in point.

We do not know whether low-ranking soldiers have been thoroughly informed about the newly revised doctrine.

Does the fact that the TNI chief (Adm. Widodo A.S.) is not from the Army have anything to do with this problem of loyalty?

This problem has nothing to do with where the TNI chief comes from. The Army leadership is not united to begin with.

There are cliques built around individuals like Lt. Gen. Agus Widjojo (TNI chief of territorial affairs), Lt. Gen. Endiartono Sutarto (Army deputy chief of staff), Lt. Gen. Agus Wirahadikusumah (former Kostrad chief) and Lt. Gen. Djamari Chaniago (TNI chief of general affairs). Each clique in turn is affiliated to groups outside the Army. If one of them was appointed to be the next Army chief of staff, there would be no guarantee he would enjoy the full support of the Army.

How do you see the relationship between the President and TNI?

It remains a big struggle for the President because some officers in the military still reject him. You may recall that the TNI faction (in the People's Consultative Assembly) did not vote for Gus Dur (TNI abstained during the vote), although TNI eventually pledged its loyalty to the elected President.

The problem in their relationship is not institutional. The problem is that there is a difference between what TNI (leaders) say and what they do.

Will TNI ever openly defy the President?

I don't think TNI has the courage to stage a coup if that is what you mean. That would be suicidal. The probability of that occurring is zero percent.

But active and retired TNI officers could still conspire to unsettle the President. There have been these secret meetings. They could create disturbances, but never a coup.

What about the performance of the State Intelligence Coordinating Board (Bakin). Is Gus Dur in control of the agency?

Bakin should have reported these secret meetings (between TNI officers) to the President. Gus Dur has no control over Bakin. Maybe that is why he relies more on his "private" intelligence.

Ideally, Gus Dur should turn to Bakin when he wants to know about security conditions in the country. If Bakin cannot give the correct answers, he should just replace the Bakin chief.

What about the proposal to dissolve Bakin?

We still need Bakin, but it has to be reorganized. Bakin has been operating more like a military intelligence unit. Its real tasks are actually much more strategic, like those related to the government's economic policies. (Tiarma Siboro)