The Jakarta Post
Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu revealed on Wednesday a government plan to hold military training for civilians living in border areas. Such training would allow them to join in efforts to maintain the country's territorial sovereignty.
'If the country faces serious threats, people should assist the military to protect the country. It is impossible for the military to protect the country without getting any support from the people,' Ryamizard told reporters on the sidelines of his visit to Natuna, Riau Islands.
He said that people in places like Natuna would be given priority in the military training program.
'[Natuna] is situated on our outer border area. Natuna's residents should be trained [how to protect their country] and they should know about war,' he said, adding that the military training program could start next year.
Natuna, located between Malaysia and Kalimantan, is part of the Riau Islands Province. It has 154 islands, of which only 27 are inhabited. The 27 islands are home to 85,000 residents, comprising 50,000 adults.
Currently, at least 300 military personnel from the Army and Navy are guarding Natuna, which is also located near the disputed South China Sea.
Ryamizard said that because Natuna was very important to Indonesia, protecting the area was a priority for the government.
'We will hold military training for the adults. There will be a paramilitary group here,' Ryamizard said.
Besides Natuna, the government plans to implement a similar program in other border areas such as Merauke, Maluku, and in the border areas of Sulawesi and Kalimantan.
The regent of Natuna, Ilyas Sabli, welcomed the plan, saying that the people on the island had in fact sought for the opportunity to form a paramilitary group.
'We need the skills because we live in a border area. We also want to protect our land. When the military needs us, we will be ready,' Ilyas said on Wednesday.
Ryamizard said that the military would train civilians in the border areas, although there was no plan to distribute weapons to them.
'It is just training. We will not allow them to keep weapons,' Ryamizard said.
Earlier this year, Ryamizard said that he planned to enlist at least 100 million reservists who could be deployed to defend the country. The recruitment plan was also aimed at rekindling a sense of nationalism, especially among the country's younger generation.
The plan to involve civilians to back up the military is not a new idea. The government has pushed the House of Representatives to pass a military reservist bill.
According to the draft bill, citizens who are older than 18 would be obliged to participate in five years of military duty under the condition that they pass a number of tests. Furthermore, citizens could be called on until the age of 45.
If a citizen refuses to take part, they could be imprisoned for one to two years.
Rights groups are strongly opposed to the proposal of 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.