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The Jakarta Post
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Does neoliberalism constitute a national threat?

  • Muhamad Haripin

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Thu, February 27, 2014 | 10:29 am

In The Jakarta Post'€™s Outlook 2014, Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, current deputy defense minister, wrote an interesting piece entitled '€œAsymmetric warfare, a clear and present threat'€ (27/01).

By explicating asymmetric warfare, Sjafrie tries to inform and '€” to some degree '€” convince readers that threats to national security are no longer adequately seen in a military way per se, e.g. from foreign attack. We also have to deploy huge resources to deter the growing threat to the state'€™s ideology, politics, economy and socioculture.

Let'۪s take a look at security threats in the ideological, political and economic fields. There are radicalism, decay of moral values and national ethics, and communal conflict in the ideological field; anarchy or rebellions, coups d'۪̩tat or attacks on vital installations in the category of politics. Threats in the economic field are financial crime, transnational crime, energy scarcity, corruption and money laundering.

Looking at Sjafrie'€™s list in a retrospective way, surprisingly we could not locate '€œneoliberalism'€ as one of the security threats in the ideological, political or economical fields.

Why do I say surprisingly? Because neoliberalism was the central theme of the speech delivered by the Indonesian Military (TNI) commander Gen. Moeldoko in early February. In front of the chief of the National Police, clerics and community leaders, Moeldoko displayed no hesitancy in condemning neoliberalism and the domination of foreign companies in the public sector because these had endangered the Indonesian people and state.

Some have expressed disagreement at Moeldoko'€™s statement, not because of the content or substance of the speech (nowadays everybody associates themselves with progressive or anti-neolib policies '€” at least verbally), but because an active military man should not speak about politics. According to the Law on TNI, active military personnel should not engage in day-to-day politics. Talking about neoliberalism, which is considered a politico-economic issue, is not the sort of public gesture that we expect from high-ranking military officers.

Reading the statement in a different way, Moeldoko'€™s statement is somehow a reflection of the obscurity of threat assessment in Indonesia, an old issue that has been criticized by civil society '€” for example in the case of the draft bill on national security '€” but its progress remains static.

The executive and legislative branches tend to put everything into one basket; from '€œterritorial encroachment by foreign military forces'€ to '€œpoverty, ignorance [kebodohan], corruption'€, but don'€™t provide clear definitions and guidance as to how all these issues should be handled in a professional, manageable as well as an accountable way.

We think we do know what the problems are, but we simply don'€™t know how to solve them.

In a democratic state, this kind of situation is dangerous. A murky and carte blanche definition in the regulation of the security sector is the perfect ingredient for abuses of power.

Moreover, to express his or her opinion or deep resentment about something is an inalienable right of every Indonesian citizen. But, Moeldoko is not an ordinary citizen; he is the chief of the TNI. Everything he says must be scrutinized, and can be interpreted as the official position of the government.

If the state really considers neoliberalism as a threat to national security '€” i.e. it endangers the
social cohesion and territorial integrity of Republic of Indonesia, then there should be a systematic approach to halt its dissemination and practice.

We could take the case of the political left as an example. Since 1965 until now, the state has prohibited the dissemination, education or practice of the political left or Marxism. Systematic policy, propaganda and apparatus were deployed by the state to repress the political left.

During the New Order era the existence of the Command for the Restoration of Security and Order (Kopkamtib) '€” later becoming the Coordinating Body for Assisting in the Maintenance of National Stability (Bakorstanas) '€” was dedicated to supporting the totalitarian ambition of the Soeharto regime, by conducting surveillance, political intervention, ideological management and terror against the political left and any political power outside the regime (Tanter, 1991).

While in the Reformasi era, we can still find the same approach toward the political left. The latest Indonesian Defense White Paper, which was published over six years ago, states that communism is a
potential threat to Indonesia. Moreover, recently book discussions on Tan Malaka, one of the Indonesian national heroes and founder of the Indonesian Republic Party (PARI), were banned in Semarang and Surabaya.

Nonetheless, it must be emphasized here that I am not suggesting the physical and cultural persecution of neoliberalism as happened to the left in Indonesia.

What I am trying to explain is how the '€œnational security threat'€ is always political in nature. It depends on ever-changing national interests and regime survival.

Describing a particular situation or ideology as dangerous or threatening is a serious business, and it risks affecting Indonesian society in general.

Having said all the above, we could demand that Moeldoko walk the talk, or probably he could make recommendations to the President to declare that neoliberalism is a national threat.

If there is no active and deliberate action, all negative sentiment toward neoliberalism is merely a matter of lip service. However, I am afraid that is the case, because it was Moeldoko himself who last year wholeheartedly said that the TNI would protect foreign investment in Indonesia.

___________________

The writer is researcher at the Centre for Political Studies '€“ Indonesian Institute of Sciences (P2P '€“ LIPI), and author of Reformasi Sektor Keamanan Pasca Orde Baru (Post-New Order Security Sector Reform), Marjin Kiri, 2013.

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