Subject: Public needs military business takeover details ASAP, says watchdog

Public needs takeover details ASAP, says watchdog

The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Sat, 10/10/2009 1:13 PM | Headlines

The government must uphold transparency in its planned takeover of several Indonesian Military business units, says human rights watchdog Imparsial.

"The government must publicly announce details of the financial conditions and assets of every single business entity it intends to take over, before a presidential decree on the takeover is issued," Imparsial researcher Al Araf told a press conference at his office here Friday.

Imparsial was responding to a statement made by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the recent celebration of the TNI's 64th anniversary, that he appreciated the internal reforms in the military and would soon issue a decree on a government acquisition of military businesses.

The public needed details of the planned acquisitions as soon as possible, because the deadline for the takeovers (set by the House through the 2004 TNI Law) falls on Oct. 16, Al Araf said.

"Transparency is also needed because the TNI businesses are estimated to be worth significant amounts," he said.

Data from the national team overseeing the transfer of TNI businesses (Timnas PAB) obtained by Imparsial shows that the military controls at least 23 foundations overseeing 53 companies, and more than 1,000 cooperatives. The TNI also owns 1,618 properties, covering more than 16,500 hectares, and 6,699 buildings.

According to Imparsial data, the military's business assets were worth Rp 2.3 trillion (US$244 million).

Al Araf's fellow researcher, Poengky Indarti, said the real value of TNI businesses could be higher than the estimates because it was no secret that a number of military officers had also been running a great number of (illegal) businesses on the side.

"We all know that many TNI officials are also involved in illegal businesses, such as illegal logging and illegal fishing. So, it is very important to reveal the results of the audit transparently, because by doing so we could find the real value of TNI businesses and punish those officers who are involved in illegal businesses," she said.

Al Araf also said the announcement would reassure the public that the government was committed to separating profitable and less profitable TNI businesses.

"At the end of the day, we do not want debts from bad businesses because it will certainly be a financial burden on the state," he said.

However, Timnas PAB spokesman Silmy Karim told The Jakarta Post that Imparsial and the public should not worry about the takeover's transparency or any troubled companies.

"What the government takes over is the activities and not debts," he said.

Previously, Silmy also said once the regulation was issued, the TNI businesses would be transferred to a management agency under the Defense Ministry.

US-based Human Rights Watch on Wednesday said such a transfer was "superficial" because the Defense Ministry was still heavily influenced by the uniformed men of the military.

Commenting on the Human Rights Watch remarks, Silmy said he could understand the watchdog's concern but stressed that the transfer would be carried out in the best manner possible under the Indonesian military law, as to avoid conflicts of interest. (hdt)

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