Fri, 11 Feb 2000

TNI plans to add personnel, weapons

JAKARTA (JP): The Indonesian Military (TNI) unveiled on Thursday a plan to enhance its arsenal and manpower reserves in a bid to address the escalating threats of security disturbances and social unrest in the country.

Speaking in a hearing with the House of Representatives Commission I on defense and security, TNI chief Admiral Widodo A.S. said the program would focus on personnel recruitment and weaponry purchase, costing the government no less than Rp 178 billion (US$24 million) in the upcoming fiscal year which starts in April.

"If the House fails to approve the proposal, it is certain that TNI will lack preparedness capability," Widodo told the House legislators.

Last month, the government proposed to the House a more than 10 percent increase in overall defense and security expenditures, setting the budget at Rp 10.1 trillion for the 2000 fiscal year between April and December. The budget was set at Rp 12.2 trillion in the previous fiscal year which covered 12 months.

President Abdurrahman said the increase for defense, as well as the education and social welfare sectors, was needed "for the sake of stability".

Widodo said on Thursday that TNI had allocated Rp 63 billion to recruit 11,500 army soldiers -- it will need to fill the shoes of some 32,000 troops who will have their ranks promoted at the end of the year. The recruitment expenditure makes up nearly 56.7 percent of the total budget for the army.

The Navy has also disclosed a long-term plan to build its troops to 70,000 within five years, in accordance with its goal of expanding the Marines force.

TNI will also release its personnel who are due to retire or who, through government service, are required to leave the military.

"We will sincerely comply with growing sentiment that we take a back seat in sociopolitical affairs and concentrate our efforts on improved professionalism," he said.

TNI has some 250,000 personnel in three forces.

Also included in this year's military budget are the purchase of two warships of Parchim class which will cost the government Rp 30 billion.

The Air Force has also requested Rp 34 billion to modify seven F-16 combat planes.

"We expect to increase the competence and skills of the Navy and Air Force personnel in their daily operations," he said without elaboration.

The last major project proposed in the next fiscal year is weaponry and ammunition inventory, which is expected to cost Rp 51.6 billion.

At least 6,230 weapons and six millions bullets of various calibers will be bought to fulfill the need for standard weapons, according to the TNI chief.

Widodo admitted that TNI found it difficult to buy spare parts for its major defense system due to an embargo imposed by the United States in connection with alleged human rights violations here.

"We keep looking for breakthroughs and alternative arms producers, including China, to meet the minimum standards for defense equipment," Widodo said.

In the future, TNI may develop a domestic arms industry in order to decrease the country's dependence on foreign weapons suppliers.

Widodo said the proposed military build-up would be aimed at supporting the government's efforts to quell the ongoing unrest, restore peace and create conditions conducive to dialog and reconciliation.

Accompanying Widodo in the hearing were Army chief of staff Gen. Tyasno Sudarto, Navy chief of staff Admiral Achmad Soetjipto, Air Force Commander Marshal Hanafie Hasnan, TNI Deputy Chief Gen. Fachrul Razi and TNI Chief of General Affairs Lt. Gen. Suaidi Marasabessy. (emf)