The Jakarta Post
Professionalism has been the ordinary mantra every time the nation observes the anniversary of the Indonesian Military (TNI). The only difference from one celebration to another is the “subject” of the targeted aspect of professionalism itself.
In the past, professionalism concerned the military institution and its personnel, which has revolved around the need for the modernization of the TNI’s weaponry and personnel capacity building. This year’s celebration, however, sees the urgency for the rethinking of professionalism within the institution’s top leadership, i.e. the TNI chief.
Such an urgency to review the TNI leadership’s professional capacity is not baseless, especially in view of the latest development of the country’s political affairs, which has drawn the involvement of the TNI chief. And the urgent review into the TNI leadership cannot be separated from the urgency of revisiting the professional capacity of the National Police (Polri), the TNI’s soulmate in establishing national security and order.
Constitutionally, TNI and Polri have distinctive job specifications that clearly divide their professional roles and functions. The National Police’s key responsibility is to protect citizens from domestic security threats, while the TNI is responsible for defending the country from external threats.
On many occasions, leadership plays a significant role in shaping the performance of an institution, including TNI and Polri. And the leadership of Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo in the TNI and Gen. Tito Karnavian in Polri has obviously given colors to the performance of each institution. All of these cannot be separated from the fact that Gatot will retire next March, while Tito may continue to lead the National Police until the next succeeding government as his retirement age only comes in 2023.
The two figures’ leadership capacity is accentuated along with an increasingly active political climate ahead of the 2019 presidential election. Strangely, however, the two have displayed contradicting stances on several key issues.
In politics, Gatot has warned of the revival of communism, while Tito has doubted its potential resurgence in view of its fading influence even in communist states such as China and Vietnam. The two figures have even been on opposing sides, especially after Gatot publicly alleged that an institution outside the military tried to import 5,000 illegal weapons “on behalf ” of President Joko Widodo. Tito and the National Police headquarters have admitted that the weapons were for police use.
Gatot has been accused of moving beyond his capacity as TNI chief through his political statements and maneuvering. Meanwhile, the National Police under Tito’s leadership has been under severe criticism for procuring weaponry of war, which is not appropriate for non-military institutions such as the police. The procurement has also ignored procedures of transparency.
TNI’s 72nd anniversary is indeed the perfect moment to remind its leadership to remain as professional soldiers and refrain from engaging in politics despite having a possible interest in building a future political career. The same message, however, should also go to the Polri leadership so as not to trespass the boundary of the force’s duty to protect, rather than to fight, the people.