The Jakarta Post
Starting on Thursday, Indonesian citizens can voluntarily register to join the Bela Negara (state defense) program in provinces nationwide.
On Monday, Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu officially launched the program by opening training for the first batch of participants. More than 4,500 citizens have joined the program as trainers in the country's 45 regencies.
The participants came from different backgrounds; from students, workers, civil servants and motorcycle taxi drivers to regular housewives. Participants will undertake 30 days of training at a state defense program boot camp.
'This is not military conscription, militarism, militarization, nor a defense effort, or physical state defense to deal with military threats,' Ryamizard said at the opening ceremony in Jakarta on Thursday.
Ryamizard said that the program was aimed at building people's character, instilling discipline and building solidarity that could eventually prepare citizens to deal with threats and play a role in state defense programs.
The Defense Minister said the program was also aimed at instilling the country's Pancasila ideology so that foreign ideas could not easily corrupt the minds of citizens.
'Our weapons system is still lacking, but having 100 million people who are ready to defend the country could be a strong deterrence effect for foreign countries that plan to threaten our sovereignty,' Ryamizard said.
The minister said he was aware that there had been opposition to the program, but was convinced that it would continue as it had won approval from President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo.
Maj. Gen. Hartin Asrin, the ministry's head of training and education division, said that the ministry had earmarked Rp 45 billion in budget funds for the program this year.
For next year, local governments will be expected to foot the bill.
'It will be a long term program that won't stop after the initial stage of training,' Asrin said.
Military experts and human rights groups have criticized the program and questioned why the defense ministry wants to recruit 100 million citizens to join the state defense program.
'What is the real goal? Does the government aim to educate people about patriotism and nationalism, or to build the national defense force,' military expert at the University of Indonesia (UI) Edy Prasetyo said during a public discussion in Jakarta recently.
He said that the ministry had only given a vague definition of the program and its aims.
'If the goal is to build a national defense force, the government should have regulations,' Edy said.
Hartin said that the government was only aiming to promote nationalism and patriotism and that such a specific objective did not need any specific regulation.
'They [participants] join voluntarily. We don't need a regulation. This is enough,' he said, adding that before starting the program, the ministry had met with relevant ministries and agencies, including the education ministry, to discuss the program curriculum.
Hartin said that so far at least 67 million people were ready to join the state defense program voluntarily.
'They register themselves at the headquarters of local military commands,' Hartin said.
Military expert Mufti Makarim said that the state defense program was a part of Jokowi's mental revolution goal, aimed at building the character of the country's youth.
Mufti, however, said that character building education should involve all relevant institutions including the Education Ministry and Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform Ministry.
Wahyudi Jafar, a senior researcher of the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy, said that the concept of nationalism could not be taught at military training.
'It should just be civic education in schools. Every state institution and members of the community should play their distinctive role in serving the country,' Wahyudi said.
He said that the national service program could lead to further social problem.
'Many civilians could easily resort to violence in solving problems because they have learned about military rules,' he said. (foy)
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