The Jakarta Post
Rights groups are strongly opposed to the proposal for mandatory military service, saying that the plan would compromise the capability of the Indonesian Military (TNI) and that training from the program could easily be abused by subversive organizations.
The conscription proposal, included in the draft bill on an auxiliary reserve for national defense, provides a legal basis for the government to recruit and train civilians and mobilize them for combat purposes.
Article 8 (3) of the draft bill, for instance, stipulates that civil servants and laborers must join the auxiliary reserve (of the Army, the Navy or the Air Force) when they are qualified.
Al Araf of human rights group Imparsial, the Indonesian human rights monitor, said there is no urgency to introduce military service in the near future.
'According to the defense white paper issued in 2008, there is only the smallest chance of a major security threat in the next 10 to 50 years,' Al Araf said on Sunday.
Rather than spending on conscription, Al Araf believes the government should invest more on the TNI's capabilities.
'Rather than spending so much on an auxiliary reserve, the government must focus on bolstering the main component: the TNI. We need to upgrade obsolete equipment and radically improve soldiers' living standards,' he said.
Chairman of the Indonesian Police Watch (IPW) Neta S. Pane said that conscripts could easily be recruited by vigilante groups and would be more effective members of such groups.
'This plan could be a risk to public order. What if people who join the auxiliary reserve become a members of paramilitary of vigilante groups? Or are abused for short-term gain?' he said.
Defense expert Andi Wijayanto of the University of Indonesia supports the plan, arguing that by 2029, 165,000 individuals for the auxiliary reserve will be needed to be part of the national defense system.
Andi said that the number of individuals conscripted to the TNI's auxiliary reserve would barely make a dent in the total number of the workforce, which stood at 118 million last year.
He also said that the plan would not add to the state budget.
'These people will only get one and a half months of training and if, after five years there is no national security threat, they are to free to go or to reapply. This will not be a drain on the state budget,' Andi told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.
Former TNI commander Gen. (ret.) Endriartono Sutarto said the conscription plan would benefit the civilians involved in the program.
'Should there be an external threat, the government will do everything to resolve it. But if diplomacy fails, we must engage in war. In this last resort, we must deploy all of our potential, including civilians, so they must be prepared,' he said.
The House of Representatives plans to deliberate the auxiliary reserve bill soon after the passage of the national security bill.
The national security bill has an article mandating the creation of an auxiliary reserve.
'The national security bill is being deliberated by a House special committee. If the government approves this bill, we can move on to the deliberation of the conscription bill,' said lawmaker T.B. Hasanuddin of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).
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