Wed, 19 Apr 2000

NU ulemas support civilian control over military

MALANG, East Java (JP): A two-day dialog between Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) Muslim organization and top military officers and intellectuals concluded on Tuesday with united calls to uphold civilian supremacy.

"The military's involvement in the bureaucracy must be put to an end," the organization's deputy chairman Masdar F. Mas'udi said reading a statement.

Rooting the military out of politics and the bureaucracy has been the top priority of the reform movement, and civilian supremacy has been slowly gaining ground since the election of Abdurrahman Wahid as president in October.

The ulemas also called for the abolishment of all military territorial commands which in the past had effectively been misused as a tool to suppress dissidents.

They said they found the military's use of power was still rampant despite its claim to have carried out internal reform.

Former military chief Gen. (ret) Wiranto, who also spoke on Tuesday, said the idea to abolish regional military commands might be accepted, but added that the process could not be completed overnight.

The President admitted in Hong Kong on Sunday that the country "still has problems with its Army generals". He quickly added, however, that the generals were fully under the control of the government.

"We have two different kind of generals, the first group is the generals who observe the law and also the civilian authority and they are the majority ... and there are also a few generals who believe that the Army's dual function should be retained," Abdurrahman told a news briefing after speaking before the Asia Society.

Gus Dur, as the President is popularly called, suspended Wiranto as coordinating minister for political affairs and security in February pending an investigation into his alleged involvement in last year's violence in East Timor. (nur/byg)