Sat, 22 Feb 2003

'No to military comeback'

Tiarma Siboro and Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Observers are opposed to the Army's suggestion it regain roles in handling domestic security in the country, saying it should focus on defending the country against external threats.

Yahya Muhaimin, an analyst with Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University, criticized Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu for demanding the military's powerful role in security be reinstated to deal with rising threats of separatism and other disturbances across the country.

The police should continue to be in charge of dealing with domestic security problems, including separatism, and should strengthen coordination with the military if they deemed it necessary, Yahya said Friday.

"There are several factors that can spur disintegration problems, such as foreign intervention and domestic matters. Once the disintegration issue surfaces due to domestic matters, it is the police that must handle it."

Yahya said the military should assist domestic security affairs only if foreign parties were involved. "These rules of the game are acknowledged anywhere."

"Of course the country's disintegration problems can be part of the military's task if foreign threats are involved."

Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto said the military had been involved in handling domestic security affairs when called on by the police.

"I think we have done it. The most important thing is to define to what extent National Police need our help," Endriartono said Friday.

Commenting on the meeting held by Ryamizard with active and retired Army officers on Thursday, Endriartono defended Ryamizard saying the meeting was "a forum for sharing ideas".

Endriartono said Ryamizard had revealed his plan to boost the capability of soldiers in every provincial-level military command.

"Professionalism is just one aspect of the character of the Indonesian military. For example, in the sense of professionalism we may follow the U.S. military, but in other aspect we can follow Vietnam," he said.

Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) military observer Ikrar Nusabakti said the TNI could only become involved in handling separatism problems once the rebellion started an armed uprising in the form of military activities.

Ikrar said the Army's view of its domestic security role was not surprising as it has intensively defended its territorial role and called for increased authority to deal with security disturbances.

Ikrar doubted whether the incumbent Army hierarchy had a clear concept of internal reform, as demonstrated by the latest Army doctrine and strategy, which defends its much criticized territorial role.

During the new order regime, the TNI maintained its power by developing military commands ranging from provincial level to village level.

The TNI bill is full of controversial articles, including sections regulating to the military's deployment as well as the military's authority to declare emergencies in areas hit by security disturbances.

In regard to military deployment, proposed Article 19 of the bill states the military can immediately dispatch troops to strife-torn regions in order to minimize losses even before securing approval from the president. The proposed article only requires that the president be informed 24 hours after any deployment.

The Article implies that the TNI holds the power to declare emergency status.