The position of the Indonesian military after seven decades
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
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.