Subject: TNI Has Blood on Hands But Brought Stability: New Book by Australian National University

The Jakarta Globe

April 14, 2010

Indonesian Military Has Blood on Hands but Brought Stability: Book

by Armando Siahaan

The Indonesian military might have concealed the truth regarding its role in a number of armed civil conflicts, but it did help the country's transition from a conflict-prone state to today's relatively peaceful nation, according to a new book published by the Australian National University.

John Braithwaite, one of the authors of "Anomie and Violence: Non-Truth and Reconciliation in Indonesian Peacebuilding," said that following the fall of Suharto, "Indonesia suffered an explosion of religious violence, ethnic violence, separatist violence, terrorism, and violence by criminal gangs, the security forces and militias."

The book, the first in a planned series by the ANU based on a 20-year study of global peacebuilding efforts, studied six civil conflicts that marred Indonesia in the early days of the reformation era, including in Aceh, Maluku and Papua.

Braithwaite said that in general, these conflicts have now subsided largely due to the role of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI).

The book argues that the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis that led to the downfall of Suharto's dictatorship resulted in a government power vacuum.

It says that the military became a central player, interfering in civilian government and muddying power relations, but in the process helping to end a number of conflicts between various groups.

"Ultimately, resistance to Suharto laid a foundation for commitment to a revised, more democratic, institutional order," Braithwaite said. "Yet the peacebuilding that occurred was not based on things like truth seeking and reconciliation efforts, as would be widely expected. Rather, it was based on non-truth, sometimes lies, and yet substantial reconciliation."

The book argues that the military was frequently untruthful in its involvement in conflicts.

Braithwaite said there were times when the military decided to solve conflicts on its own authority, without the knowledge and the approval of the government.

The author said the military was frequently the cause of the armed conflict. "And in some cases different factions of the military and the police fought one another," he added.

Braithwaite referred to the long, devastating civil conflict between Christians and Muslims in Maluku as an example.

Military officers and former officers "were in the background providing resources to different sides of the conflict depending on their loyalties and their business and political agendas," the book said. "The military also played role in mobilizing the fighters and escalating the tension."

In a number of cases, Braithwaite said that in places like Ambon, the positive story is that in the latter stages of the conflict the military moved from being part of the problem to being part of the solution.

"The military began to prevent conflict when they refused to take sides but insisted on putting out any spark of conflict as soon as it was lit, whichever side lit it," Braithwaite said.

He then used the long-running separatist conflict in Aceh as another case in point.

Braithwaite argued that the military in Aceh contributed to solving the conflict by withdrawing and allowing a dialogue about the peace process to proceed.

However, one of the problems that the book raised was that there was no truth and reconciliation process. In the end, it was also the military who played a significant role in ending the conflict, but it did so without revealing the truth about its involvement.

"The most important investigation into the causes of the Maluku violence was never made public," Braithwaite said. "Perhaps this was because it fingered the military. But I do not know the truth of this because the truth was not made public.

"This poses a real challenge to restorative justice theories of peacebuilding, and also common sense understandings of how conflicts are resolved and peace is fostered."


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