Saturday, November 21, 2009

The attempts to boost Indonesia's military territorial function

The newly sworn in Army Chief Lt. Gen. George Toisutta said that the Indonesian Military (TNI) is to set up two new military commands in West Kalimantan and West Papua provinces in an apparent bid to revitalize its much-criticized territorial function.

We certainly have not forgotten to appreciate the achievements of TNI's reform. However, having more territorial command shows a paradigmatic problem in formulating policies of state defense. In this respect there are critical notes on the Defense White Paper that can affect the direction of the TNI organizational transformation towards a more professional and modern TNI.

The decision for having new territorial commands should be decided by civilian authority on the basis of strategic defense review. One significant change of TNI reform was the power relations between the TNI, the President and the Defense Ministry. Prior to the reform, the TNI had exclusive autonomy to decide on the deployment of force also on strategic planning, operation, budgeting and personnel management.

Now the TNI is required to submit to the authority of the President in matters of the mobilization of force, while in the matter of defense policy strategies, as well as administrative support, the TNI is under the Defense Ministry. Defense White Paper 2003 emphasizes the new professional paradigm of the TNI entering the 21st century. However, it still contained the old paradigm that the threats perceived were more domestic, and that sovereignty was still seen from the perspective of homeland security.

The ambiguity of the definitions on the perceived threats were misinterpreted in the operational level, resulting in the consideration of pro-democracy groups, stretching from students, NGOs, to community and political organizations as domestic threats to the country's sovereignty.

For civil society, the reform is meant to eliminate the domination of the land-based Army within the TNI. The security paradigm that is based on territorial security directly preserves the domination of the territorial command.

The defense strategy outlined in the White Paper also has not accommodated the development of the joint forces of the other two branches, and at the same time neglected the reality that Indonesia is an archipelagic country with a expansive shoreline, and large bodies of water that needs to be protected by strengthening the supporting zones based on aerial and marine powers.

Indonesian Defense White Paper 2008 is relatively more extensive compared to the 2003 one; however some issues still need further deepening. The 2008 White Paper deals with the analysis of the Indonesian environmental safety, the nature and perception of threats, the concept of national defense, the strategic policy of the state defense administration, state defense development plan and the projections of budget requirements.

The old view towards political democratization had resulted in the vagueness of the formulation of the nature of threats to national defense. The 2008 Defense White Paper stated that "the domestic political dynamics that developed since the reform era has led to an increasingly uncertain condition".

This stability problem is viewed to be due to the lack of preparation, the lack of understanding and immaturity of the civilian population in applying the values of democracy. It also stated that "political accessibility gave way to a freedom that is heading towards unlimited freedom" (MoD: 2008: 23).

Viewing the political dynamics as leading to "uncertain conditions" surely is an oversimplification. This is the old paradigm of stability. During Soeharto's 32-year ruling, in the name of stability, the entire political access was eliminated. And also in the name of stability, military groups were permitted to enter the socio- political, socio-economical, socio-religious, and other non-defense realms.

The word "stability" failed to provide human security, creating an atmosphere of fear and has eradicated civil rights. This view of "uncertainty" in the political dynamics has to be evaluated. If the uncertainty said is due to the divisions of power among the legislature, judicial and executive branches, then this is normal democracy. Uncertainty can also be referred to the rise of opposition powers and a critical civil society.

Freedom that is viewed as leading to "unlimited freedom" is also unfounded. Because we have the legal instruments to provide reasonable boundaries to freedom. There are the criminal code and other related laws in regulating public order and safety, public health and morals, as well as the protection of other people.

The 2008 Defense White Paper also regards the regional autonomy and the strengthening of local identities as being "counter-productive to the national principle of Bhineka Tunggal Ika (unity in diversity)." The issue of putra daerah (indigenous people), traditional rights and indigenous land rights (hak ulayat) as the consequence of decentralization is yet to be viewed as normal.

Indonesia has ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which protects local identities and values, including the right to cultivate traditional lands and indigenous lands (tanah ulayat). The strengthening of local identity cannot be viewed as a threat which requires the presence the state instrument of violence such as the TNI.

The strengthening of this local identity must be viewed as a corrective effort to authoritarianism that prevents local identity and entity and at the same time fights for equal access to political and economical resource among citizens. Or at least as an expression of dissatisfaction to correct the centralized system of power. These expressions are legitimate in democracy.

If the view does not change, then this would endanger future processes of decentralization of power and authority between the central and regional government.
President SBY asserts that it is impossible for us to turn back the hands of time, that we are now at the point of no return. Under the Soeharto regime, centralized power brought many problems of injustice, oligarchy and corruption.

Finally, having more territorial command will contribute to the inefficiency of our defense system and posture. The dream of having a trained, well-equipped and well-organized force with good welfare is far from being accomplished.
Usman Hamid, Jakarta coordinator for the Commission for Missing Persons and
Victims of Violence (Kontras).

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