Sat, 22 Feb 2003

No choice but to go ahead with a pledge to reform

On Thursday, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu met hundreds of active and retired top army officers, where he reiterated that the role of the country's army is different from the expected "professional" army role elsewhere, as he claimed there were unique problems in this country such as disintegration. The Jakarta Post's Ati Nurbaiti talked to former chief of territorial affairs and a former deputy speaker of the People's Consultative Assembly Lt. Gen. Agus Widjojo on the issue. The following are excerpts of the interview:

Question: Thursday's meeting seemed to reflect apparent fears among senior and retired army officers of today's required end to the military's political role, such as losing its seats in the legislature. How do you see this?

Answer: If we see changes as a process we would understand that in the past the Indonesian Military (TNI) had a large responsibility over the nation's fate and it cannot just be indifferent to that. We are now in a transition to place all state institutions within functions to be adjusted with a modern and democratic Indonesia.

This adjustment takes time ... it is a two-way process in which it is crucial to have the effectiveness of the institutions (such as the police -- Ed.), which now run the functions which the TNI and particularly the army used to run effectively.

If we understand this we would know that this transition needs time and patience (Defense researchers have also cited the need for proper understanding of civil and military relations among both civilians and the military -- Ed.).

Nevertheless, the TNI has placed itself as a part of this nation's strategic decision to encourage a national reform towards democratization. Maybe senior officers are among others influenced by the initial statement of the army leadership to end the territorial command structure, which embodies the army's social and political role, while later it was stated that ending the structure would have to be gradual.

Changes cannot be seen partially but they need to be understood as part of a more comprehensive system and eventually they cannot be separated from the above strategic decision towards democratization.

The function of the territorial structure has to be seen in the light of what the nation wants because it would relate to the whole authority of the government; so the restructuring of this authority, including the territorial commands, cannot be decided by the TNI alone.

This is because the territorial function is a function of guidance and preparation of national human resources at the local level and to prepare infrastructure whenever needed to support defense efforts. This is a government function. What about observations that the territorial command structures have led to "excesses" and have been used for economic gains of the military and its officers?

Even if there were excesses it would be handled as part of enforcing law and discipline ... (such excesses) have never been part of the command policy. The TNI leadership is always committed to efforts to enforce the law. How long would it take for the TNI's young generation to be committed to the reform goals of having a professional TNI that is only engaged in defense of the country?

The preparation of TNI's Army personnel is based on the existing pattern to prepare soldiers to respond to challenges. This is done through education and training which takes into consideration each development in its surroundings, to anticipate necessary capabilities required of each soldier.

The biggest investment which will influence the quality of TNI's performance is human resource development ...

So it is important to get an accurate analysis of the kind of TNI that we want and to accommodate this in the curricula. This takes time and if we design the curricula in a wrong way we will feel the effects in the future.

The period for a (student) to graduate (from military education) and to reach a position as a mid-ranking officer to be able to influence policy of the TNI command could take 15 years.

Fears of eroding influence seem to be reflected in officers' statements on Aceh, which give the impression of mistrust in the current implementation of the peace pact mediated by the Henry Dunant Centre. Your comment?

A review of the role of the TNI in the Aceh case must refer to the statement of the TNI Commander (Gen. Endriartono Sutarto) who said that TNI carries out the political decisions made by the political authority; however, the TNI can provide suggestions and give input to policy makers about its role and assignment.

Then what is absolutely necessary is to ensure (TNI's) readiness whenever it must do its task entrusted by the people, through a political decision.

If there is the impression that cooperation is not going quite smoothly among various institutions, this is a logical consequence from this transitional period, in which we are making functional institutions effective in the restructuring of the role and function of each institution ... But if this phase in Aceh fails, wouldn't we have to expect even more foreign assistance?

The impression that the above cooperation is not going smoothly is still subject to management by the government, which can be improved at any time. And each development in resolving the Aceh issue will first and foremost be dealt with by the political authorities to determine who does what, in accordance with our Constitution.

The functional institutions would then carry out that (decision) such as the foreign affairs ministry regarding diplomacy, the local administration regarding its functions and the police regarding law enforcement and security, and also the TNI will continue its role of supporting the civilian authority in its required role and function. So you see such problems as basically a management issue?

We still have much political resources to respond to our national dynamics. The measures taken by TNI are based on decisions of the political authority. This means that it is hard to imagine a scenario where the TNI is needed to directly act and make political decisions. So the TNI does not need to directly take political measures. Do you sense that there are doubts on the part of the political authority regarding TNI's position?

In any transition to a democracy in any place, functional institutions are in a process of becoming effective; because they were never given a chance and were thus untrained to do so in the past.

However, there is no choice but to build this effectiveness, and we must support all efforts towards that purpose, so we can quickly overcome this transition and build a mature democratic structure. What if we are unable to do this in a timely manner?

As more time passes, the costs will increase.