Tue, 15 Aug 2000

Writing TNI in the Constitution

After so many attacks on the political role played by the Indonesian Military (TNI), I was surprised to read in The Jakarta Post of Aug. 9, 2000 an article titled TNI set to write itself into the Constitution.

It is reported that the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) is almost certain to write the political role of the TNI into the 1945 Constitution under a compromise among the country's major political parties. Two big political parties are opposed "in principle" to giving political power to TNI as a realization of the compromise. This is a very strange attitude indeed.

If the political parties decide to give political power to TNI, it would mean that they are convinced of its benefit for the country, and not because the present situation requires such a compromise, although God only knows how long the compromise may last. We cannot put something in the Constitution only to serve as a temporary political need and for the sake of national unity.

Jacob Tobing, the chairman of the MPR ad hoc committee, said TNI's presence was still needed to promote national unity and political stability. On one hand, the politicians are afraid of TNI because it takes away their chance of governing the country, but on the other hand they must reluctantly admit that TNI is a force which can promote national unity and political stability. In this context I can only say: Be firm for once and learn to be consistent in your attitude, irrespective of the burden which goes with it.

Changing the political position of TNI with a decision of the MPR is downgrading the prestige of this body, while actually those changes can easily be made through a common law, especially when this is meant as a temporary step (Media Indonesia, Aug. 9). This decision is likely to wake up a sleeping tiger. TNI has an "unconditional" role which the people gave it in this reform era. And thus TNI is calm and trying hard to accept it to please the people.

My appeal to the politicians is to make a firm decision of where to place TNI, and whether it belongs according to the people. With or without a political role, TNI will remain loyal to the unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia.