Sat, 04 Jun 1994

Security issues are multi-faceted: Defense chief

JAKARTA (JP): The government has to exercise greater wisdom in dealing with various security issues, such as labor disputes and a soaring crime rate, tracing them to the source of the problems, Minister of Defense and Security Edi Sudradjat said yesterday.

Edi told a hearing with the House of Representatives that labor disputes and crime are two social problems that can pose serious threats to national security, but the government should deal with them in a more integrated manner and not treat them simply as security issues.

The government has often been accused in the past of being high handed in dealing with various issues, including labor disputes.

Government critics have said that now is the time for an alternative approach, as implementation of the "security approach" often lead to fatalities. The death of four farmers in Nipah, on the Madura Island, killed by troopers when angry villagers protested against land evictions last year, illustrates their argument.

Edi acknowledged that poor handling of various social, political and economic problems very often developed into security threats that called for the intervention of the security apparatus.

He noted that the country's unemployment rate has continued to increase because the economy is not growing fast enough to absorb the swelling ranks of its workers. Unless the unemployment problem is solved, it could pose a serious security threat to the nation, he said during a hearing with the House's Commission I which deals with security matters.

A high unemployment rate often results in a rising crime rate, he said. He pointed out that unemployment has now reached around four percent of the country's work force.

However, officials have acknowledged that as many as 30 percent of the 86 million person workforce are under-employed.

Other factors

Edi said other factors such as increasing abuses of liquor, narcotics and sales of pornographic materials are other factors which breed crime.

He said the police and the military have jointly launched a massive operation to crack down at criminals but such a measure would only partially solve the problem.

The main cause of crime, that is unemployment, "remains the home work for all of us," he said.

He stressed that the government alone cannot solve these problems of crime and unemployment. Society as a whole must participate.

He used the workers riot in Medan, North Sumatra, last April to illustrate his point of the need of society's involvement.

Deploying the "security approach" in dealing with labor strikes and protests was ineffective because the problem really lied in the poor relations between management and workers.

The government has defended the use "security approach" in the face of its critics, stressing however that it is not the only one used. (rms)