Tue, 15 Aug 2000

More discussion about TNI/Police

JAKARTA (JP): People's Consultative Assembly factions defended their decision on Monday to extend the Indonesian Military (TNI)/Police role in the Assembly, calling on critics to face the "political reality" that immediately abolishing their political roles could lead to further turmoil.

Senior Golkar Party legislator Syamsul Muarif warned critics not to ignore the fact that the military had played a major political role for the last 35 years, and that it would not be easy to omit the military in a short time.

Prematurely eliminating the military/police seats in the Assembly could backfire and eventually endanger the nation itself, Syamsul warned.

"It is a political reality that TNI played a key role in the past. "And when the role is suddenly abolished, we fear that they may get out of control," Syamsul told The Jakarta Post here on Monday.

According to Syamsul, the Assembly has agreed to allow the military/police faction to retain a presence in the Assembly until 2009 at which time a new constitution will come into effect which will prohibit the military/police faction from active participation in politics.

Syamsul concurred with a possible reduction of the military/police faction's seats in the Assembly without saying how many.

The faction is currently allocated 38 seats.

The military and police are traditionally barred from participating in general elections. In return they are allocated a certain number of seats in the House of Representatives and the Assembly.

The plenary session of the Assembly is expected on Tuesday to endorse the commission's proposal to continue allocating seats in the Assembly despite an earlier commitment to abolish their seats in the House.

It is unclear exactly how many seats the faction will get. A copy of the draft decree which may be adopted on Tuesday suggests that the TNI/Police faction may be reduced to 19 seats.

Syamsul also said he could understand people's dissatisfaction that the 500,000-member TNI/Police faction had 38 seats while the National Mandate Party (PAN) which gained over five million votes in the general election has only 34 seats.

"Let them (the military) see with their own eyes the new political constellation, that they must stand outside of the political scene ... Let's be patient," Syamsul insisted.

The largest faction in the Assembly, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), described its decision to support the allocation of seats for the TNI/Police faction as a fair measure and was in compliance with State Policy Guidelines.

"The Assembly represents all layers of society throughout the country. What will happen if there are certain groups of people who are not allowed to vote. Who will represent them at the Assembly?" said Panda Nababan, a PDI Perjuangan legislator.

Panda insisted that as citizens, TNI/Police members also have political rights and they must have a medium to exercise those rights.

"We are still in compliance with the previous agreement that in 2004 there will be no more TNI/Police representation in the House of Representatives, but in the Assembly the situation is different," said the former journalist.

Not surprisingly, members of the TNI/Police faction hailed the Assembly's decision.

The faction's Ferry Tinggogoy warned it would be counterproductive if the military was ousted from the Assembly without a transition period. He maintained that his faction and other factions still needed each other.

"It is not only people outside who want us to quit from the Assembly, we also want to leave! But you must remember the difference between a wish and a reality," Ferry remarked.

"We have sacrificed by not having the right to vote, so give us a chance to contribute to the Assembly," Ferry said.

The National Awakening Party's Ali Masykur Musa remarked that the military must be given "appropriate time" to adjust in facing the country's latest developments.

Ali remarked that it is possible for the military to eventually be allowed to vote in general elections as a way out of the conundrum.

"As a tool of the state they should be impartial. But if they are granted the right to vote, the general public will question their impartiality. We must overcome this issue," he added.

But the chairman of the TNI/Police faction in the Assembly, Hari Sabarno, said that even if they lose seats in the Assembly and were given the right to vote it is likely the military would still not use the option to exercise their right to vote.

"We still might not use our vote because political party intervention in the military would create a huge impact," Hary remarked.

"It will be dangerous if differences occur among groups of armed people. The military and the police should stay neutral by not voting." (team)