Activists are decrying the increasing involvement of the military in Indonesian public affairs, which they say is accompanied by rampant human rights violations and attempts to prevent a feared revival of communism.
"The military doesn't have the right to arrest civilians," Alghiffari Aqsa, the director of the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Jakarta), said during a discussion in Jakarta on Thursday.
His comments follow an incident on May 3, when members of the 0505 East Jakarta Military District Command reportedly seized several copies of a book entitled Palu Arit di Ladang Tebu (Hammer and Sickle in the Sugar Cane Field) by Hermawan Sulistiyo from a store on Jl. Dewi Sartika in Cawang, East Jakarta. Several T-shirts featuring a hammer and sickle logo were also confiscated at the time.
Separately, in Ternate, North Maluku, the 1501 Ternate Military Command arrested four activists of the Alliance of Indigenous People (AMAN), apparently because they were in possession of books and T-shirts related to leftist movements. The activists’ books were confiscated.
The Indonesian Military (TNI) was known for its dwi fungsi (dual role) concept during the New Order regime, which ended in 1998 with Soeharto stepping down from power. In that era, the TNI was commonly involved in politics and business.
In 2010, the Constitutional Court annulled the 1963 law on monitoring printed materials with content that could jeopardize public order. Hence, Alghiffari said, the military had no legal basis to seize those books.
"Under the pretext of the threat of communism they have been banning books and arresting people. Those facts show the social reality about the increasing role of the military in public and security affairs," said Gufron Mabruri from human rights watchdog Imparsial.
Gufron added that the military had signed a memorandum of understanding with several non-military institutions to extend its authority, including agreements that allowed military deployment to guard events like demonstrations and evictions and to guard public infrastructure, such as railway stations, harbors and airports. (vps/dmr)