Tue, 15 Jan 2002

Reviving Kodam mars reform

M. Riefqi Muna, Executive Director, The RIDEP Institute, Jakarta

The military's commitment to continuing with its reform agenda, particularly regarding the concept of its territorial commands, is now being questioned following the unpopular proposal to reinstate the Aceh military command. To some extent, it indicates that any humanitarian effort to solve problems in Aceh will remain non-existent. The dominant paradigm of realpolitik is still clearly popular among decision makers, as the state reveals its need to conduct military operations to maintain its legitimacy.

Human costs will thus be inevitable. Apparently, the state ranks human security second behind issues of securing its sovereignty. Reinstating the military command would disrupt many aspects of the reform movement, particularly that of the Indonesian Military (TNI).

The military's seriousness in reforming itself has been questioned because of unabated human rights abuses resulting from military atrocities. Its command, control, communications and intelligence functions will remain ineffective as long as the gap between the guidelines released by the military headquarters and what happens on the ground remains. The murder of Papuan (Irian Jaya) leader Theys Hiyo Eluay, which suggests the involvement of certain groups in the military, is a case in point.

Atrocities by the military place Indonesia in a difficult position as the military consistently implements a security approach to deal with opposition groups. Their term oknum, referring to unscrupulous members of the military involved in human rights abuses, is repeatedly stated to deny the involvement of the military as an institution.

Previous military operations have traumatized the Acehnese, but they are also facing further potential violence. To date, there have been no positive signs that a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict will be found. No perpetrators, either civilian or military, have been put on trial.

So despite strong opposition from the Acehnese people, their governor has decided to reestablish the military command, saying that the decision was made to meet the people's demands. It implies that the military headquarters have legitimate reasons to curb separatist activists, by any means.

A close look at the plan to reinstate the military command (Kodam) in Aceh clearly reveals that it was prepared well in advance, during the B.J. Habibie administration, with the involvement of certain generals. Several Acehnese leaders met with the president to convey their opposition to the idea of establishing the Kodam in Aceh.

To avoid further human suffering, it is important to structure the territorial function of Indonesia's defense policy in accordance with "normal" strategic calculations. A territorial command is basically a chain-of-command structure, a political organization of the armed forces, arranged geographically ranging from the capital of the state to remote village units.

This territorial command has been used as the backbone of the military's "dual function" doctrine, which the TNI says has officially been abolished. Yet this function still largely dominates the military mindset.

Therefore the recent downgrading of the position of Chief of Territorial Staff (Kaster) into an assistant's post under the TNI chief of general affairs, in practice, does not carry with it any consequences. Instead, the military has become more assertive.

It is important to note the growing role of hardliners within the TNI headquarters in terms of defense policy arrangements. Hence the continuance of the territorial command function.

Lt. Gen. Agus Widjojo, when in office as Kaster, proposed a plan to reduce the territorial function from the village level, or Babinsa, to the level of regional commands, or Kodim, which would take 10 years, in line with the retirement periods of many current officers.

The plan to shift the local function of Binter (territorial guidance, pembinaan teritorial) to the local administrative institution seems to contain a hidden agenda: That the military is only preserving its political interests. But the reformists in TNI believe that reducing the territorial command function is important to reduce their involvement in politics.

From here, the problematic issue emerges. The defense system is based on the territorial/spatial aspect. But principles of territorial command in other countries are not as political in nature as in Indonesia, except in repressive regimes such as Burma (Myanmar) or socialist and communist countries.

Therefore, the future defense structure should consider two important aspects: Scenarios of threat assessments and the nature of the Indonesian archipelago as a unit of territorial defense that serves as a base for a unified military command from the army, navy and air force units.

On the contrary, the territorial function is detrimental to the defense posture since it only focuses on the army, in line with the concept of the "Large Islands Defense System" of TNI's strategy. This concept is of no relevance to the actual geographic situation of the state as an archipelagic country.

This strategy was inherited from the revolutionary period for guerrilla warfare, when our geographical boundaries did not yet exist.

Indonesia must adjust its defense system to suit actual conditions, and to consider issues such as technological changes, and the development of non-traditional threats such as information warfare. The defense system from the revolutionary days must be replaced with the "Layered Defense System", with greater involvement by the navy and air force, to defend state boundaries largely located in the middle of the sea.

The new Defense Bill passed by the legislature (which has yet to be signed by the President) has obviously indicated the need to review old approaches, strategies, doctrines, and the organization of the armed forces -- that is, to establish a professional military that is free from politics.

Yet the debate on the territorial command function points even more to whether TNI is really serious about its reform. We all hope for the emergence of courageous soldiers committed to making the country's future secure, instead of only fighting for power and wealth. Such a commitment would befit the TNI's own rhetoric of defending national interests and the unity of the state.