Mon, 27 Aug 2001

Transfer of TNI's territorial role could take years

The Indonesian Military, through its territorial affairs chief Agus Widjojo, revealed last Tuesday that it would gradually hand over its territorial function to local administrations and the National Police. The Jakarta Post interviewed Agus over the weekend to get his insight into the plan. The following is an excerpt of the interview.

Question: Former chief of the Army's Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad) Lt. Gen. Agus Wirahadikusumah once aired his idea about abolishing the Indonesian Military's (TNI) territorial function. At that time, the Jakarta Military Command was named the pilot project. How would you evaluate the project?

Answer: Generally, it was only part of the whole process to obtain as much input as possible from the lower levels of the military, and at the time was conducted by the Army. All the input was then presented to the higher level, the TNI Headquarters.

Q: Is there any difference with his concept and yours regarding the abolishment of TNI's territorial function?

A: First, it must be understood that we are not going to abolish TNI's territorial function, but to hand it over to local administrations. Such a transfer is necessary as there have been overlapping functions between the TNI and the local administrations or between the TNI and the National Police because of duplication of responsibility, especially in security and defense.

Q: Could you elaborate?

A: We must distinguish between the use and the development of national potential in the regions for defense purposes. In this case, the development of national potential in the regions constitutes one of the local administrations' functions because they have the authority to deal with civilians. Someday TNI must release its development function to local administrations and focus on defense only, such as training and preparing combat units in the regions and preparing defense plans for the regions.

Of course this will have consequences. TNI then must dissolve its territorial institutions below military resort commands (Korem), including the district military command at the regency level (Kodim) and all military units at lower levels, including subdistrict military command (Koramil) and military officers in charge of village security (Babinsa).

Q: The dissolution of such lower-level military commands would have implications for military personnel with positions there. Has TNI Headquarters anticipated that?

A: One of our concerns in the restructuring is that the process does not create internal rifts because of the reduction of positions. Therefore, the program we design must be able to solve this problem, by channeling the people concerned to other places, or following natural reduction in that they eventually retire; but of course the latter option is the least favorable.

Q: How would you evaluate the old territorial function of TNI?

A: All of TNI's civic missions, as stipulated in People's Consultative Assembly Decree No. VIII/2000, are principally aimed at accelerating development. Such civic missions, however, are only carried out following a request from local administrations.

In the past, TNI's civic activities -- including TNI's involvement in village programs (AMD), TNI's labor services (Bakti TNI), the promotion of family planning, the health care campaign -- were all initiatives of the TNI, decided upon and carried out by the TNI. In the past, there were also many deviations of TNI's territorial function, for instance being used as a political vehicle to ensure that Golkar won elections.

That's one of the reasons why many people wanted TNI to hand over its territorial function so as to avoid any partisan stand being taken by the TNI, which at that time was called the Armed Forces (ABRI).

We are now conducting internal reform based on a new paradigm of the TNI, that is to give our best contribution to our beloved country to meet the challenges of the new global era, marked by tight competition among nations. To realize this, we must create an effective and efficient national management system in a state structure that is modern and democratic, with no duplication of function and authority.

Q: When you reintroduced the idea, did you at any time objectively observe each region?

A: We've tried to collect input from many parties, including from the regions. There are some circumstances that prevent us from generalizing the regions. We must identify and accommodate all differences based on local conditions, so that the program can be implemented specifically in each region.

Q: Does that mean that the handover of TNI's territorial function will take some time to complete?

A: It is not the TNI's own decision as it is an intersectoral program. We definitely need input from the institutions that will eventually take over this (territorial role). The handover of TNI's territorial function will also depend on the real situation and conditions in each region across the country. For Java island, for example, full realization of the program may be completed in 12 years, but for Irian Jaya, it may take 19 years. It may be completed in Sumatra and Sulawesi within 14 years, and Kalimantan 17 years. (Tiarma Siboro)