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Jakarta Post

Decree to boost TNI'€™s civilian role

  • Margareth S. Aritonang

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, October 19, 2015   /  06:01 pm

The Indonesian Military (TNI) has demanded overwhelming authority in a planned presidential decree (Perpres) that would not only position it directly under the President but would also give it more authority in dealing with security affairs.

Amid the already increasing role of the military in carrying out civilian functions, such as guarding prisons, helping farmers plant rice, as well as securing railway networks and public transportation, the decree would only strengthen the TNI'€™s role in non-combat operations.

A draft of the decree, a copy of which was recently obtained by The Jakarta Post, would give the TNI a legal basis on which to use weapons to impose security on non-military threats.

Article 7, for example, would grant the TNI authority to deal with crimes that are supposedly handled by the National Police. This includes terrorism, smuggling and cracking down on narcotics.

The TNI would also have authority to help the operation of local governments and provide protections to Indonesian citizens overseas.

In a bid to cement its legality in the civilian sphere, Article 4 of the draft stipulates that the '€œTNI is an instrument of the state for defense and security affairs that is equal to a ministry and is under the President'€.

Such a clause is apparently in contradiction to the 2004 Law on the TNI that prohibits the institution from handling security affairs unless requested by the National Police, or by the order of the President.

Former TNI chief Gen. (ret) Moeldoko told the Post that the draft was formulated by the TNI during his leadership, aiming to '€œadjust the TNI with the current situation'€.

'€œThe Perpres is basically expected to increase the role of the TNI in non-military operations,'€ Moeldoko said.

As the draft decree was submitted in July to the State Palace, the TNI is now awaiting President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo'€™s approval.

Since 2013, the TNI has been seeking numerous civilian jobs because most of its 450,000 active personnel stood idle following the end of the separatist movement in Aceh in 2005 and the abating similar threat in Indonesia'€™s most remote province of Papua. Incursions by foreign militaries are deemed a far-fetched notion.

Unlike during former president Soeharto'€™s dictatorship, which ended in the reform movement of 1998 after he ruled for more than three decades, the military'€™s clout in politics and civilian affairs has been dramatically reduced over fears that strong military roles in non-combat operations will bring back the trauma of authoritarian rule.

In 2000, the TNI'€™s authority in security affairs was stripped as part of a democratic reform movement with the National Police, which was granted with the sole authority to handle security and was removed from the TNI command structure.

Military expert Mufti Makarim argued that involving military in domestic security affairs would not only overlap the job carried out by the police but also set precedents and legal justifications for the TNI to further aspire in political, social and economic affairs.

'€œA number of memorandums of understanding [MoUs] the TNI sealed with non-military institutions are already worrying enough as they will allow the military to deeply meddle with public life,'€ Mufti said, adding that approving the proposed decree would only make things worse.

TNI spokesperson Maj. Gen. Tatang Sulaiman refused to comment on the matter, saying only: '€œI don'€™t know anything about it. I have never been involved in any meetings to discuss it.,'€

If the decree is approved, the TNI will no longer be under the auspices of the Defense Ministry and will have equal footing with the National Police and other ministries, which are directly under the President.

The draft decree commands the TNI to coordinate with the Defense Ministry in formulating policies and strategies related to defense, including in the matter of budgeting.  

Such stipulations also contradict the 2004 Law on the TNI that does not set TNI'€™s position as equal to a ministry.

'€œGranting the TNI an equal position to a ministry is a setback because it is against efforts to reform the military, particularly in upholding the supremacy of civil society over the military,'€ said Poengky Indarti of human rights watchdog Imparsial.

Moeldoko, the chief architect of the proposed decree, played down concerns over the TNI'€™s role in civilian affairs, ensuring that the TNI would only be engaged in a limited scope of civilian jobs.

However, he emphasized the importance of placing the TNI independently under the President'€™s direct control.

'€œThe President holds control over the military. This is why we refer to the President as the highest commander of the TNI. Thus, the TNI is supposed to be under him not a minister,'€ Moeldoko said.

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