Fri, 18 Aug 2000

PDI-P, Golkar dismiss antimilitary protests

JAKARTA (JP): The two largest factions in the People's Consultative Assembly -- the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) and the Golkar Party -- have brushed off the outcry over the continued presence of the Indonesian Military (TNI) and National Police in the nation's highest legislative body, saying they were still needed to help advise on and tackle security and defense issues.

The Golkar Party faction maintained that these two institutions have, and would continue to have, a pivotal role in maintaining stability in the country.

"The existence of the military and the police is not a matter of like or dislike. The two institutions with their guns are needed to maintain the security and handle the country's defense," Golkar deputy chairman Slamet Effendy Yusuf said.

Demonstrations have hit the Assembly in the past few days, as it is almost certain to pass a decree that ensures the TNI/Police faction's presence in the body till at least 2009.

Demonstrators have in particular accused the two largest factions in the Assembly of betraying the reform movement by accepting a political compromise.

PDI Perjuangan faction members said the decision was the best alternative for the time being.

"Our faction had only two alternatives: To maintain the military's presence at the Assembly for the time being or to allow the military to use its voting rights in a general election and allow it to set up its own party," PDI Perjuangan faction member Permadi explained.

"We took the first alternative with the proviso that its presence at the Assembly was limited till 2009," Permadi said at a media conference called to defend the faction's stance.

He added the nation would face a serious problem if it opted for the second alternative.

Permadi refuted allegations that by allowing a TNI/Police presence in the Assembly, the faction had betrayed the reform movement.

He said that the final objective would be to phase out the military's dual function but that it could not be done all at once.

He said his faction's position was consistent with the 1998 Assembly decree on the military's gradual exit from politics.

"No more servicemen will be recruited into the administration and Cabinet. The military and police will no longer have representatives at the House, provincial and regency councils as of 2004 and at the Assembly after 2009," he said.

Permadi acknowledged that much of the concern over the military's dual function was due to its implementation during the New Order era.

"(But) We don't want to take the risk of re-entering a military era where civilians are powerless. We do not want any military officials to say that servicemen are Golkar cadres," he said, referring to a past statement made by Gen. (ret.) R. Hartono, a former Army chief.

Permadi also hailed the Assembly's decision to formalize the separation between the police and the military, saying the two institutions' next chiefs would be appointed after consultations with the House.

Asked about the political compromise to ink the police and military presence in the Assembly in the amended constitution, Permadi said it would only prevail during the transitional era and was in line with the Assembly's decision to limit their presence at the Assembly until 2009.

"The transitional ruling will no longer be effective as of 2009," he said.(rms)