Mon, 30 Oct 2000

Public 'don't buy TNI reform claims'

JAKARTA (JP): In spite of major internal changes in the Indonesian Military (TNI) over the last two years, many people still perceive civil-military relations in Indonesia as virtually unchanged, according to research published on Saturday.

The public still widely perceived these changes as "half- hearted" measures in response to external pressures rather than conscious efforts to improve the professionalism of the military, the Research Institute for Democracy and Peace said.

One outstanding issue that has not been addressed by the reforms is the existence of the territorial command structure through which the military in the past exercised its political role, according to the study, which was also sponsored by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES).

The institute held a round table discussion on Saturday on the research it had just completed on civil-military relations. The research took the Udayana Military Command, which oversees Bali, and East and West Nusatenggara, as its case study.

"From the civilian side, the most extreme demand is the abolition of these territorial commands. In popular political terms, "soldiers must return to the barracks", the study said.

The TNI's failure to clarify what it intends to do with the territorial commands has further raised suspicions among the public about the military's real intentions.

The group noted that the TNI leadership was divided on the issue, with one camp insisting that these commands be retained as they are, another proposing to revamp them, and yet another proposing their complete abolition.

"This attitude of buying time, that of avoiding giving answers to the public, is not only prolonging the problem, but it is also sowing internal divisions that could potentially turn into a major conflict," it said.

The Army's huge and complex network of territorial commands ensures its omnipresence throughout the archipelago right down to the village level. It runs from the Kodam (regional/provincial) level, through the Kodim (district), and Korem (subdistrict) levels down to the Koramil (village) level.

In the recent past, the chiefs of these commands wielded much more political power than civilian rulers like governors, and district and village chiefs.

The six members of the study team were M. Riefqi Muna, Hermawan Sulistyo, Moch. Nurhasim and Sri Nuryanti of the Indonesian Sciences Institutes (LIPI), Arbi Sanit of the University of Indonesia and Kusnanto Anggoro of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

Present at the discussion on Saturday were a number of members of the TNI's top brass, including TNI Chief of Territorial Affairs Lt. Gen. Agus Widjojo and Udayana Military Command chief Maj. Gen. Kiki Syahnakri.

Agus commented that in spite of the criticisms, TNI had moved well ahead of civilian political institutions in conducting sweeping internal reforms.

The researchers also acknowledged that TNI had conducted major reforms, from the change of its name from the previous Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI) and the separation of the police from the military, each with clearly defined tasks, to its withdrawal from the political arena, the introduction of a new doctrine or paradigm and the incorporation of human rights as a subject in its training curriculum.

The study cautioned against the claim that TNI had pulled out "100 percent" from the political arena, noting that it still has representation in the regional legislative councils and will also remain in the People's Consultative Assembly, which elects the president, until 2009.

It also noted that the tradition of esprit de corps remained strong in the military to the point where the entire corps would shield errant officers from legal prosecution.

According to the study, the biggest challenge in reforming the TNI was to change its culture, and this was also the main reason why the public felt that the military had scarcely changed, the study said.

"People in the military are often frustrated because in spite of their maximum efforts, they are not getting an appropriate response," the study said.

The researchers suggested that TNI, particularly the Army, open itself to outside reform initiatives, including criticism, even if it bordered on condemnation. "That (condemnation) should be considered as input in designing changes to answer the challenges of time," the study said. (02/emb)