Subject: House, govt spar over TNI regional role

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

The Jakarta Post Friday, August 27, 2004

House, govt spar over TNI regional role

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post/Jakarta

The debate over the military's territorial role looks to dominate the deliberation of the Indonesian Military (TNI) bill, which commenced on Thursday.

The United Development Party (PPP), the National Awakening Party (PKB) and the Crescent Star Party (PBB) factions in the House of Representatives oppose the presence of military institutions down to the district level, citing the trauma of the New Order regime.

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the largest faction in the House, did not specifically demand the liquidation of regional military commands. It did suggest, however, the military focus its territorial operations in border areas.

The Golkar Party, the second largest faction in the House, was undecided but talked tough about the bill, which keeps what it called the obsolete doctrine of unity between the military and the people intact.

According to the bill, among the TNI's underlying jobs are conducting territorial missions to help the government improve the state's defenses; organizing military training for civilians; and upholding the doctrine of unity between the military and the people.

The bill requires the military to maintain a presence in society, including through its regional military commands.

During the New Order, the military was one of the main organizations that helped keep former president Soeharto in office for over three decades. Soeharto was forced to step down in 1998 in the wake of the reform movement.

Human rights activists and military experts consulted by the House underscored the controversial contents of the bill, including the military's territorial duties, which they said could pave the way for a revival of a military presence in sociopolitical affairs.

They also suggested the military fall under the supervision of the defense ministry in order to build a more professional armed forces.

Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Hari Sabarno, who represented the government in the deliberation on Thursday, insisted the regional military commands would be maintained for defense purposes only.

Regional military commands fall under the Army, which maintains over 200,000 troops.

"I just told the TNI chief that should the regional military commands be dissolved, we might need to deploy a battalion of troops to each regency," Hari said.

The minister, however, said the government was ready to discuss possible changes to the duties of the military commands.

"We are ready to discuss it in future deliberations. The most important thing is that the commands are still needed to deal with defense affairs," he said.

Also present at the opening hearing on Thursday were the secretary-general of the Ministry of Defense, Vice Marshal Suprihadi, and TNI Commander Gen. Endriartono Sutarto.

Imam Addaruqutni of the Reform faction and Yasril Ananta Baharuddin of Golkar questioned the presence of Endriartono at the hearing.

Imam said the TNI chief could not represent the government in the law-making process.

"The TNI commander is not part of the government, so his presence here is unconstitutional," he said.

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