Thu, 05 Oct 2000

TNI blasted over commercial interests

JAKARTA (JP): Experts and activists strongly criticized the Indonesian Military (TNI) for alleged unaccountable profits gained from commercial activities in the private sector and called for a transparent account of the matter.

"Never in history has the military been willing to be straight with the public on its financial resources, apart from the official state budget," said political analyst Indria Samego of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).

"Why? It's due to the past New Order political culture. From the very beginning the military has been given a portion of business. Now, who dares (query it)? Even taxation officials can't check on the Yayasan Baret Merah (Red Beret Corps Foundation) or any other military-related foundations," Indria said.

Political analyst J. Kristiadi of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies said that in order to become completely professional, the TNI must withdraw from business.

"This may sound impossible but the military has to return to its original function, which is to defend the country and to master warfare," Kristiadi said, adding that a case of alleged graft at the Army Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad) Foundation was only the tip of the iceberg and that TNI would not want its Kostrad commander to be tried for such a case.

He further said that TNI's excuse that it was conducting business to augment the limited budget the state allocates to it was untrue as in reality only the military elite enjoy the luxury and profit from these businesses.

"It has been known for some time that once a military member gets a star (becomes a general), they begin to gain privileges. While thousands of other troops are living in poverty at modest barracks," Kristiadi said.

Munir, head of the executive board of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) pointed out that a large military-linked foundation like Kartika Eka Paksi allegedly has 26 other companies dealing in a variety of businesses, ranging from shrimp and electronics.

"The Inkopad (the Army's Cooperative Center) allegedly has 12 affiliated companies. The Air Force, the Navy and the police are also more or less the same. The Red Beret Corps Foundation even joined training held by Ikadin on how to master business," Munir said.

Munir claimed that some of the profits from these funds were also financing military operations.

The structure of the military hierarchy command must be removed from business, he said.

The Indonesian Corruption Watch's (ICW) Agam Fatchurrochman further suggested the funds gained from the private sector by the military be inserted into the state budget.

"The Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) has to audit all funds managed by the Ministry of Defense and the Indonesian Military Headquarters to make the usage of the funds clear and make proposals".(edt)