Subject: Tempo Cover Story: Interview/Defense Minister Juwono on Timor, Reform, Papua

2 Tempo Cover Story Reports (2 of 2):

- Interview/Minister of Defense Juwono Sudarsono: The practice of generals' references still goes on

Tempo No. 23/VI Feb 07 - 13, 2006

Interview: Juwono Sudarsono: The practice of generals' references still goes on

HE is the first civilian to lead the Defense Department. Having held the same cabinet position during two different periods, Juwono Sudarsono, 64, is well-acquainted with the challenges of his job, that building a nation's defenses with a very limited budget would require extraordinary patience. This is because the condition of Indonesia's main weapons system needs serious upgrading, while the sheer size of Indonesia and the threat of separatism need Juwono's every bit of attention.

Another task on his plate is the implementation of TNI (Indonesian Military) Bill 34/2004. Within five years, this former Ambassador to the Court of St James, must complete restructuring the TNI's businesses and prepare for the eventual merging of the TNI Headquarters under one roof-that of the Defense Department. In the process, Juwono must also contend with charges that the TNI continue to violate human rights around the country.

Two weeks ago, Juwono and his senior officials held the first executive meeting of the Defense Department. In attendance were the TNI Commander in Chief, the chiefs of staff of the defense forces and other top government officials. The meeting discussed a new mechanism for budget approvals as well as the need for a new system for weapons and arms procurement. The objective is to cleanse the process of procuring arms, which to date has been colored by corruption and collusion. Last Thursday, in the middle of his tight schedule, Juwono met with Tempo reporters, Hanibal W.Y.W, Widiarsi Agustina and Fanny Febiana for a special interview in his office at Central Jakarta. Excerpts:

Last week, the Defense Department held a leadership meeting. What was discussed?

In accordance with the State Defense and TNI laws, issues covering policy, strategy and defense management are now coordinated by the Department of Defense, specifically concerning budget management. Hence the budgets of each defense force submitted to the TNI Headquarters for approval are now combined and submitted to the Defense Department through the Director-General of Defense Planning, under the supervision of the secretary-general. All procedures come under the general guidelines on defense. That is what I wanted to convey to the leadership of the TNI at the meeting yesterday.

And that covers the entire budget, including routine matters as well as arms procurement?

Yes. The budget of each of the TNI defense forces must begin by going through the Chief of the TNI General Staff, sent to the TNI Headquarters and then submitted to the Defense Department. Then the budget is structured based on three principles: a defense that is based on the budget, on an integrated plan covering all the three defense forces, and a minimum basic strength.

How big is the total budget requested for 2006?

The budget ceiling we received this year is around Rp28.2 trillion, further broken up as Rp9.2 trillion for the army, Rp4.5 trillion for the navy, Rp4.2 trillion for the air force, Rp2.3 trillion for TNI Headquarters and Rp4.5 trillion for the Defense Department.

To what extent does this budget cover actual needs?

Actually, we need something like Rp54 trillion. This means, this budget is only half of what we need. But we must accept reality because we know that the state coffers have limited amounts.

So what happens to plans of buying corvettes and submarines?

This is inclusive, because the process has been ongoing since 2002. It was first approved in February 2004, when the Navy Chief at the time was Admiral Kent Sondakh.

What about the Sukhois?

That too has been considered in the current planning. The Sukhois and the Mi-5 and Mi-17 helicopters are remnants of uncontrolled purchases. Their procurement was done through a barter process and the bill comes to me, which all comes to about US$200 million. But I have submitted that to the Department of Finance. If that was taken from our budget, we'd be broke.

Is the plan to rely on export credit for procurement still being used?

We will still use that. We analyzed this with Bappenas (National Development Planning Board) and we hope to be using it for the long term, not just during the fiscal year, for example, for a five-year term, with the maximum budgeted allocation. Our planning this time is very tight. It does not factor in partners hoping for export credit. And the export credit itself will be determined by the Defense Department.

What about procurement through partners?

We will still be doing that, but diversified through the secretary-general and the TNI Chief of General Staff and a clearing house. We will list a number of partners. We will review their past records, how bona fide the companies are, their finances and links overseas. We have been warned by the Coordinating Minister for the Economy not to be involved in money laundering, because this is what many suppliers from Eastern Europe and Russia are doing. We are also streamlining the system of submitting proposals and clearing up inter-agency links so that fiscally as well as in monetary terms, we continue to act according to regulations set by the government.

In the past, arms purchases used to be marked up. How can this problem be overcome?

Since six months ago, this problem has been managed by the Secretary-General at the Defense Department. We have formed a working group between the Defense Department and TNI Headquarters, to list the number of suppliers, including foreign agents which have representative offices in Jakarta. We review them one by one, and check their credibility with each of their governments. We look at their past records. If they are good, we continue dealing with them. If not, we tell them that they are not qualified to deal with us.

During the middle of last year, you spoke harshly about the practice of 'special references' by senior TNI officers in matters of procurement. How can this be prevented?

We will review each proposal that comes from the defense forces; which ones contain the influence of certain senior officers in planning the structure of the weapons to be procured. I, as well as the secretary-general, have been urged by President Yudhoyono, to reduce the influence and role of such senior officers in procurements, so that we can eventually get rid of it once and for all. But this needs time, because this practice has been going on for decades. In the military, those senior officers, despite their retired status, are still generals.

This can really trim down some resources… It is not aimed at trimming down, but at reducing the benefits. This practice of using 'special reference' will go on. We will reduce their excessiveness. Markups used to be 150 percent, but they will now be reduced every six months, so they are more acceptable. We must be realistic; the road to improvement must come in stages. I am determined to build a defense planning and management system that is more transparent, more accountable and more selective.

On the withdrawal of the American embargo, how big an impact will this have on weapons procurement?

Significant impact will be felt, because the US dominates 70 percent of foreign military technology licensing, including in Europe. This is particularly the case when the spare parts of aircraft, weapons or missiles, must be vetted by the American Congress. They are very powerful.

To what extent will the end of the embargo have on the cheap weapons sale coming out of markets in Eastern Europe and the Ukraine?

Since the American embargo was lifted last November, many of the weapons or their components have been selling cheaply from many countries, including the US. I have even received seven ambassadors offering to sell us those weapons. So the lifting of the embargo does have a huge impact on competitive arms sales from countries like Poland, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and the Ukraine.

We heard people from the Ukraine have even approached Vice President Jusuf Kalla to supply weapons to Indonesia… Indeed, a few colleagues from the Vice President's office are looking into those new opportunities. But in line with guidelines provided by the President, the process of considering and signing contracts still rests with the Defense Department. So, the Vice President's office will only be looking at the conditions and the prices.

We also heard that they have come to each of the defense forces.

That is correct. We have advised our friends at the Vice President's office that they can look into the matter, but the specifics must be submitted to the defense forces and then to the Defense Department.

With such an open weapons market, what can the government do?

We must remain true to the budget. The defense forces must not exceed their budgetary capabilities. Most importantly, the basic consideration should be our operational readiness, increased professionalism and the soldiers' welfare.

Given the size of the maintenance costs and price of goods, why aren't we doing anything about our own defense industry?

Actually, there is much that we are capable of doing, technologically speaking. The problem is how to inject more funds in that direction. There must be political will from the President, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, the Finance Minister, the Defense Minister and the State-Owned Enterprises Minister to commit more funds in support of our defense industry.

In your view, can we still build a defense industry?

On January 3, in a meeting with state-owned companies in Bandung, they agreed to cooperate if the government will inject huge funds into the industry. So it must be an inter-departmental decision, not just the Defense Department budget. They can supply the needs, as long as there is certainty for five to 10 years.

With such minimum budget and weaponry, we have to deal with a number of external threats at the border areas. Was this discussed at the recent meeting?

Matters involving the borders are being handled by the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal & Security Affairs, and the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, the latter specifically where area authority is concerned. In fact, there is collaboration between the Maritime Affairs Minister and the Minister for Small/Medium-Sized Industries on developing economic activities in frontier areas and remote islands. That is part of the defensive non-military program, to prevent other nations near us, from claiming those territories.

Did the meeting also discuss the defense doctrine?

The doctrine still refers to Article 36 of the 1945 Constitution, and that is Sishankamrata, which says that each citizen must and has the right to participate in the nation's defense and security. That subject is also regulated in the TNI law and the law on National Defense. The problem is that since it involves security, there already exists a law covering the Police Force, but there is no law on Home Affairs Security. In terms of coordinating, that would be the part played by the Minister of Home Affairs. But the problem is that the police don't want to be under the Home Affairs Minister. It has been agreed in the TNI law that the TNI Headquarters comes under the Defense Department.

If the TNI command comes under the Defense Department, shouldn't the TNI Commander in Chief hold a director-general position?

No. In the new structure, the President's direct authority over the TNI Commander in Chief and the Police Chief is still valid. It's just the dual administration that will no longer be valid. As it is now, we have the TNI command budget, and the Defense Department budget. We agreed to be more efficient.

When both offices come under one roof, will the TNI chief continue to attend cabinet meetings?

If this is a presidential system, they have the right to attend because they are invited by the President, but not as a cabinet member.

What about resistance from senior officers who regard the TNI command as being toothless under the Defense Department?

No such thing. The majority accept this. They only ask that the Defense Minister does not come from a political party. In reality, there is no problem if the minister obeys the presidential system, because it can ensure neutrality, and prevent this office from becoming a place to stir opposition. The problem is that this has happened in the past.

How far does this civilian supremacy go?

It depends on the strength and solidness of the party system, including the discipline of each party. There is now a trend to pull the military back into politics. In the 2004 general elections for instance, wasn't TNI Commander in Chief, General Sutarto, seen to be a possible vice-presidential candidate? This is proof that the parties are not consistent, and they lack the confidence to select someone from among the civilians. Pak Tarto told me of his reluctance at that time, because he really wanted to push for the independence of political parties by not being involved as a candidate.

Lately, there has also been concern on the politicization of the TNI, like during the New Order, just because our president comes from the military. This is being linked to the upcoming 2009 General Elections. How do you see this?

I don't know. But I'm sure that the President will make sure that the TNI's role during the campaign will not arbitrarily support him. I know that he is committed. He is willing to lose, for the sake of the TNI's neutrality. And I am sure that he won't do that, because that would be the same as committing suicide.

How do you view the fit-and-proper test of the TNI Commander in Chief by the House of Representatives?

That's just a political stage, because in the end they approved the appointment. Their excuse was the trauma with the past, when military chiefs were directly picked by the president.

At the House, Air Force Chief of Staff Marshall Djoko Suyanto declared his intention of continuing with the territorial command system. Is this concept still relevant?

There is no problem with this, because that is the heart and soul of our national defense doctrine. So long as the majority of the people still live in poverty, institutions are still weak, the NGOs and political parties are not functioning well, the de facto people ensuring order in this nation are still the TNI. The level of this political control can be reduced if the civilian population can discipline itself. That is what we are trying to do in parliament, and often my parliamentarian friends get upset when I say this. They regard me as excessively defending the TNI.

People are worried that the territorial command system will be abused like in the past.

That won't happen. We have a critical public now. The NGOs and the political parties are very critical. The TNI itself doesn't want this to happen. In my view, if the TNI's role is to be reduced in the territorial commands, the civilians must also be strong.

Are there plans to increase the territorial commands?

Right now, the plan is to intensify the army's presence. But adding more commands? There's no money for it. We don't even have money to build a headquarters in Papua.

About Papua, why is this becoming so political?

Because it was raised in a number of NGO forums. When I was in London in 2003-2004, there were groups intent on bringing the Papua problem to international forum, by professors in Sydney, Australia and the Netherlands.

The government doesn't seem to have a focused solution on the Papua problem.

The Papua desk is handled by the Coordinating Minister for Politics and it is focused. The leader should be the Home Affairs Minister. The Defense Department, TNI and the Police are supporters. If we were at the front, people will say it is a repressive society and we will be seen as deploying troops. Some even say there are 15,000. That's insane. That's one division! If it were true, where's the money to keep them there? This is the work of friends in the Netherlands, Britain, Australia, whose work is only to create sensational news.

What do the international community, specifically the US and Australia, want in Papua?

They want Papua to remain part of Indonesia, because a stable Indonesia will take care of their economic interests. Also, if Papua is stable, there will be no longer critics to escape to Australia or Papua New Guinea. The US and Japan feel the same way. They wanted a peaceful Aceh. If Aceh is peaceful then the Malacca Straits would be more secure.

It also depends on how it's managed.

It actually depends on people on the ground. That is why our concern is to ensure that low-level soldiers are trained well, they get their salaries on time and are being led well. Because one soldier can determine the fate of the Papuans, Acehnese and whether parts of the country are still in Indonesia or not. They are the ones who determine this, not the Defense Minister.

About TNI-owned businesses, how far has the verification and audit of those businesses been carried out?

The inter-departmental team that is formed will become the TNI business transformation team. The head will be the SOEs Minister, Said Didu. The members will come from the Departments of Defense, Finance and the SOEs Ministry. Right now, it is being handled by the defense secretary-general. I heard that the verification has been done. Of 219 enterprises, only four to six are seen to qualify as a state-owned enterprise. The rest are going to have to close down.

What will happen to the rest?

They will be returned to their units. They will be allowed to carry on with activities but not as a large entity, and can only operate according to the law on Foundations and Cooperatives. Chicken raising, for instance, will be allowed. The most important thing is the welfare of the soldiers.

What if they become real businesses?

Profit-making is no longer allowed. No units are allowed to bring profit to their commanders.

Will there be any specifications for this TNI business?

Yes. The welfare of the soldier must be improved.

About President Xanana Gusmao submitting the CRVR (Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor) report to the United Nations, how prepared is the government to face the consequences?

Most importantly, that it is followed up by a UN Security Council resolution. The Indonesian Representative office in New York has been monitoring developments of the permanent and non-permanent members in the Security Council. They all say they do not want the Security Council to take any action against Indonesia.

sidebar: Juwono Sudarsono

Place & Date of Birth

Ciamis, West Java, March 5, 1942


Law & Mass Communications Faculty, University of Indonesia (1965) Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, Netherlands, (1969) MA, University of California, Berkeley, USA (1970) PhD, London School of Economics, United Kingdom (1978) Georgetown University, Washington DC, USA (1985)


Professor, University of Indonesia (1988-to date) Deputy Governor, National Defense Institute (1995-98) State Minister for the Environment (1997-1998) Minister of Education & Culture (1998-1999) Defense Minister (October 1999-August 2000) Ambassador to the United Kingdom (2003-2004) Defense Minister (2004-to date)


Tempo No. 23/VI Feb 07 - 13, 2006

Shop online for new and used books at Powell's & support ETAN -

Back to February menu
January menu    
World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu