Mon, 10 Oct 1994

Ruffian student regiments backed

By Prapti Widinugraheni

JAKARTA (JP): University student regiments, whose reputation has recently been marred by the ruffian behavior of some of its members, will continue to exist because they are seen as a vital part of the overall campaign for greater national discipline.

University administrators and government officials alike are defending the regiments, known as Menwa and similar to American ROTC groups, stressing that any excessive behavior should be dealt with on a case by case basis.

But it is precisely these excesses that have made the regiments unpopular among non-member students.

Newspaper clippings documenting the alleged abuses by Menwa personnel were presented by members of the Commission IX of the House of Representatives to Minister of Education and Culture Wardiman Djojonegoro on Monday.

The press reports have led legislators to question the effectiveness of the campus regiments. They feared that Menwa members tend to abuse the strength and expertise they have gained from military training.

Wardiman admitted that some Menwa members have a tendency to "over-react" but said that this was no reason to end the program.

"Don't use the excessive behavior of some regiment members as grounds for changing the system. The existence of student regiments is necessary to strengthen patriotism," Wardiman said.

Membership in Menwa is voluntary and the military training and education is not part of the university's curriculum.

The government can call for compulsory military service under a 1988 national defense law but has refrained from imposing it so far, largely because of the huge costs involved.

The student regiment scheme introduced at campuses is partly seen as an attempt to bolster the defense force under the total people defense (Hankamrata) concept.

Many government officials and university administrators view military service as one way of increasing discipline, which they feel the nation sorely lacks.


This is also the reason why university administrators supported Wardiman's view that the program be retained despite its unpopularity among some of the students.

They said the regiment is an important means of teaching discipline and enforcing law inside the campus grounds.

Idik Sulaeman, Trisakti University's deputy rector for student affairs said Menwa is still crucial as the "stabilizer and activator" of campus activities.

Idik admitted that there have been cases when regiment members threw around their weight too much.

"There is no need to review their existence on campus ... what they have to understand is that the only difference between them and other students organizations is their greater sense of discipline," he told The Jakarta Post.

Anggodo, a former member of the student regiment at the Jakar ta Institute for Teacher Training and Education (IKIP), said such iron-fisted actions from regiment members were sometimes necessary because "in many cases Menwa is required to take strict actions".

Trisakti, after observing "the arrogant attitude of some regiment members" two years ago, began monitoring the activities of regiment members on a routine basis through a special council consisting of university administrators, regiment alumni and regiment leaders, Idik said.

The council, he said, has the responsibility to evaluate, correct and criticize regiment members whose attitudes tend to be "more army-like than the army".

He admitted the idea to establish the council came after an incident which occurred three years ago involving the retaliatory kidnapping and the brutal treatment of anti-Menwa students.

"Menwa is actually just another student organization under the coordination of the student senate," he pointed out.

Umar Mansyur, University of Indonesia's deputy rector for student affairs, emphasized the importance of telling regiment members that they are not university "security guards."

Student's choice

Umar agreed there was no need to review the existence of Menwa on campus. He said regiment members have to be reminded constantly that "they are not different from other students just because they wear military gear and undergo military training".

"If regiment members understand this, there will be fewer cases of excesses and overacting." He added that it is the student's choice to join the activity and is therefore not up to the university to decide on whether Menwa activities were necessary or not.

According to Umar, the most urgent matter at hand now is for regiment members, regiment leaders and university officials to agree on the role of Menwa on campus.

Anggodo admitted that being a member of the regiment made some feel special. "Some students considered us to be different from the others ... and so we tend to consider ourselves as an exclusive group," he said.

Anggodo argued that Menwa abuses should be judged case by case since it all depends on "the person's individual attitude." Any misunderstandings or abuses that may have occurred, he said, mostly came as a result of poor communication between Menwa members and other student organizations.

Anggodo agreed to review Menwa activities but did not see any need for them to be abolished.

In order to become a member of the student regiment, a student must go through a series of basic military courses on and off the campus grounds and also be trained by the army.

"Its not easy to earn a green army uniform and a purple beret you know...," he said referring to the colors of Menwa.