Wed, 05 Mar 2003

On Army get-together

Since his appointment as Army chief of staff, Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu has twice organized reunions for retired generals his senior as well as for his active juniors, just to maintain good relations. This is a good step, because with these nostalgic meetings, his seniors can feel that they are not forgotten and the juniors have a chance to exchange ideas and get advice from their experienced seniors.

But not everybody, especially those outside the military circle, like the politicians, was happy with them and they felt uneasy because they suspected that the nostalgia was just a cover-up for more serious matters at hand. This was expressed by The Jakarta Post on Feb. 21, which covered the reunion in a front-page story, headlined Army wants power again.

This conclusion was based on Ryacudu's statement that the military's security role should be reinstated due to threats of separatism and other security disturbances, and because the Army was very concerned with the country's territorial integrity.

A prominent politician from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) by the name of Philips J. Vermonte wrote in the Post on Feb. 25 that there was no reason to give power back to the Army and his one and only main reason for saying this was that the statement had bypassed a chain of command within the military. It is strange that such a prominent person, who is a member of a respected organization such as the CSIS, backed his political statement by using the very naive reason of bypassing the chain of command. If there was no bypassing, then, according to Philips J. Vermonte, the military could be given back its power.

Since the Post is widely read by foreigners, especially diplomats, the articles might give the wrong impression and cause some confusion since the Post is turning a purely technical statement into a political one.

The military is well aware of the antimilitary atmosphere, caused by the law on dual function, which politicians feel is a barricade to their political role and domination. But it should not be forgotten that the dual function was based on a law and the law was not enacted by the military, but by the House of Representatives and the government, and the military is just following the order of the law.