The po­si­tion of the In­done­sian mil­i­tary af­ter seven decades

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

Yesterday, the In­done­sian mil­i­tary (TNI) cel­e­brated its 70th an­niver­sary. Un­in­ten­tion­ally es­tab­lished by a bunch of na­tion­al­is­tic mili­tias in a col­lec­tive fight for in­de­pen­dence from col­o­niza­tion, the TNI has evolved into a struc­tured, hi­er­ar­chi­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion that helped es­tab­lish a sov­er­eign In­done­sian state and shaped it into what it is now.

Praised as a key uni­fy­ing fac­tor, along with other el­e­ments of the na­tion, dur­ing the strug­gle for in­de­pen­dence and for be­ing at the f ore­front in the fight against the re­turn of colo­nial­ism and sub­se­quent sep­a­ratist move - ments and se­cu­rity threats in the coun­try, the TNI was later blamed for abuse of dwi­fungsi (dual role) con­cept — with mem­bers ac­tively in­volved in pol­i­tics and busi­nesses — and vi­o­la­tions of hu­man rights, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the New Or­der era.

The com­mit­ment to re­form in the af­ter­math of Pres­i­dent Soe­harto’s res­ig­na­tion in May 1998 has led the TNI to trans­form it­self into a more demo­crat­i­cally minded or­ga­ni­za­tion, with a com­plete exit from pol­i­tics and busi­ness be­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s most em­i­nent achieve­ment.

Re­form, how­ever, is ap­par­ently a never-end­ing process that or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing the TNI, have to con­tin­u­ously deal with. One ma­jor item of the un­fin­ished re­form agenda is the fail­ure of both the gov­ern­ment and the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives to re­vise the 1997 Law on Mil­i­tary Tri­bunals.

Hu­man r i ghts ac­tivists have ac­cused the TNI of us­ing mil­i­tary tri­bunals to avoid the Hu­man Rights Court and con­demned the tri­bunals for their lack of in­de­pen­dence, which they say pre­vents vic­tims of hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions from ob­tain­ing jus­tice.

Al­low the Pros­e­cu­tion

of Sol­diers

A more

com­pre­hen­sive Mil­i­tary Tri­bunal Law would fa­cil­i­tate the es­tab­lish­ment of a proper role for mil­i­tary tri­bunals, which are sup­posed to merely try vi­o­la­tions of mil­i­tary dis­ci­pline and not breaches of the law by mem­bers of the mil­i­tary, and al­low the pros­e­cu­tion of sol­diers who com­mit crim­i­nal of­fenses in reg­u­lar civil­ian courts.

Another is­sue still lack­ing in the TNI’s re­form agenda is syn­chronic­ity be­tween pol­icy com­mit­ment from the TNI’s top brass and up­per ech­e­lons and po l icy im­ple­men­ta­tion on the ground.

While it has been in­sti­tu­tion­ally de­cided t hat t he TNI quit all its busi­nesses, this pol­icy com­mit­ment has of­ten­times fallen on deaf ears once it has reached the lower and bot­tom ends of its or­ga­ni­za­tional hi­er­ar­chy.

Media re­ports in the past 12 months have sev­eral times re­layed sto­ries of phys­i­cal clashes be­tween TNI sol­diers and po­lice of­fi­cers at the grass­roots level over dis­puted shares of ex­tra in­come trig­gered by illegal se­cu­rity pro­tec­tion ser­vices the two forces have of­fered.

This spe­cific prob­lem has been iden­ti­fied as a re­sult of in­suf­fi­cient salaries for sol­diers and of­fi­cers at the lower and bot­tom ends of the TNI’s and the po­lice’s or­ga­ni­za­tions, de­spite the an­nual wage rate in­crease.

The ques­tion is how in­suf­fi­cient is the salary of those lowranked sol­diers and of­fi­cers when com­pared with their fel­low In­done­sians in the low-in­come bracket of so­ci­ety?

The prob­lem surely needs a so­lu­tion sooner rather than later. Yet, TNI sol­diers are es­sen­tially no dif­fer­ent from their fel­low In­done­sian cit­i­zens. It is only that they are civil­ians in uni­form. This is an ed­i­to­rial pub­lished by The Jakarta Post on Oct. 5.

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