Subject: JG Editorial: Armed Forces Must Stay Out of Politics [+TNI To Probe Poll Meddling Claim]

also: Editorial: Armed Forces Must Stay Out of Politics; Army to Probe Poll Meddling Claim

The Jakarta Globe Friday, January 30, 2009

SBY Urges Neutrality For Police, Military

Sally Piri

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Thursday reminded members of the country's Armed Forces, or TNI, to uphold laws requiring the military to remain politically neutral in the upcoming elections.

Yudhoyono addressed top military and police brass during a meeting at the State Palace to discuss security arrangements for the legislative elections in April and the presidential polls in July.

He told the group of more than 460 military and police officers that he had suffered personally when officers took sides in the 2004 elections that brought him to power. "I have experienced how painful it was when TNI and police officers issued policies or orders that ran against the neutrality of the TNI and police during the general elections in 2004," Yudhoyono said.

He said that the problem had not been at the institutional level. "It was not the organization, no. But just the individuals. There was a forum of group commanders within the TNI, which I strongly believed was not under the order of the then chief of the armed forces," Yudhoyono said.

He said that the forum had encouraged other officers to call for a boycott against certain parties or candidates and even distributed details that outlined the parties' weaknesses.

Among police, certain officers were openly asking crowds not to vote for certain presidential candidates, he added. Yudhoyono did not name individuals or provide details on which parties and candidates had been targeted.

Under a 2004 law on the Armed Forces, soldiers are banned from taking part in political parties or politicking, and are forbidden to run for political positions in elections. They also do not have the right to vote. A similar law was issued for the police in 2002.

"But, that happened five years ago and it has been a while now. They have already been forgiven," Yudhoyono said.

With the general elections only months away, Yudhoyono also asked the officers to refrain from making statements that may confuse voters.

He said that he had received dubious reports that a high-ranking Army officer had urged people against voting for a presidential candidate whose name began with the letter "S."

Yudhoyono also asked the military and the police to remain vigilant against any potential threat in the current "political year."

"Neither underestimate nor overestimate the threats."

The Jakarta Globe

Saturday, January 30, 2009

Editorial: Armed Forces Must Stay Out of Politics

Indonesia's Armed Forces, or TNI, has a proud history that began with the nation's struggle for independence. The men in uniform were a central part of the birth of the nation and have been key to its subsequent development. But the TNI has also been involved in some of the darker chapters of the country's past.

Since the 1998 political and economic crisis, the TNI has withdrawn from national politics, giving up what was once an overwhelming presence in the legislature and returning to the barracks. Over the past decade, there have been serious efforts made to professionalize the military by ensuring that it adheres to its constitutional responsibility, which is to protect and defend the country.

Thus, the warning by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono this week for the military to stay out of politics raised quite a few eyebrows. If his comments are indeed true that a certain high-ranking Army officer has urged people not to vote for a presidential candidate whose name begins with the letter "S," it is a very worrying development. If the TNI is being newly politicized, we are entering a very dangerous phase for the nation's still fledgling democracy.

Under the Constitution, the president is the commander in chief and the Armed Forces must be totally loyal to him. If the president is not fulfilling his duties, then there is both a legal and political process to remove him. Under no condition or excuse should the military wade back into the political arena.

The sad history of many other countries where the military has interfered in the political process should serve as a warning. Thailand, Pakistan and the Philippines have all in the past been politically weakened and their societies thrown into chaos when their militaries overstepped their bounds. We must prevent the military from meddling in politics in our country.

Under a 2004 law on the TNI, soldiers are banned from taking part in political parties or politicking and are forbidden to run for office. They also do not have the right to vote. A similar law was issued for the police in 2002.

Indonesians are right to be wary of the TNI. While the institution is no longer feared as it was under former President Suharto, when it was allowed to run roughshod over anyone who opposed or criticized it, the TNI still suffers from a lack of public confidence. It will need to work hard over many years to rebuild public trust in its intentions and in its ability to perform its crucial duty in a nonpartisan manner.

As we near legislative and presidential elections, the president is right to sound the warning if individuals within the TNI are attempting to politicize the institution. We condemn any such move, which would be detrimental to the social fabric of the nation and harm our democracy. We must remain alert to such moves and the officer involved must be brought to task.


The Jakarta Globe Saturday, January 30, 2009

Army to Probe Poll Meddling Claim

Markus Junianto Sihaloho

Army Chief Gen. Agustadi Sasongko Purnomo said on Fridaythat they would launch an investigation into an allegation by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that a high-ranking Army officer had tried to influence military families into not voting for a presidential candidate whose name began with the letter "S."

Yudhoyono said on Thursday that he experienced in 2004 a lack of political neutrality in the Armed Forces, or TNI, when several commanders — not acting under the orders of their superiors — had encouraged other officers to call for a voting boycott against certain parties or candidates.

Now, with the 2009 elections drawing closer, he said he had heard of objections within the TNI to a presidential candidate whose name started with "S."

Among the possible candidates for July's presidential election, there are four whose names start with "S": Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, former Jakarta Governor and Army commander Sutiyoso, former Navy Chief Slamet Soebijanto, and the president himself.

During Suharto's rule, the military was not only a security force but also an active political player that helped keep Suharto in power for more than three decades

The military also influenced voting patterns during general elections through its territorial command presence.

Members of the military are barred from voting in elections but their family members can participate.

Speaking in Jakarta, Agustadi said the first thing he would do in response to Yudhoyono's statement would be to ask the president directly about the issue.

"I shall directly ask the president who gave him the information and by what means, by SMS or phone," Agustadi said.

He said the Army was committed to convincing Yudhoyono of its political neutrality during the forthcoming legislative and presidential elections.

"I'm really sure that the president still fully believes in us," Agustadi said.

Meanwhile, an Army officer who declined to be identified told the Jakarta Globe on Friday that a rumor had been circulating among officers in the past three months that Yudhoyono was considering replacing Agustadi as Army chief.

The officer said it was understood the president believed Agustadi did not have the competence to prevent generals from actively engaging in politics.

Military Chief Gen. Djoko Santoso said on Friday he would summon military commanders from across the country to ensure that officers were not taking a political stance.

He admitted to reporters that he had known nothing about the "S" issue until the president told him last Thursday.

"[The allegation] is just a warning from the president to us," Djoko said. "I will give my full attention to keeping the [serving] military out of politics."

Several retired military and police generals are now actively involved in political parties while others often attend the political events of certain parties. The Golkar Party has retired Lieut. Gen. Sumaryono as its secretary-general; the People's Conscience Party, or Hanura, is headed by former Military Chief Wiranto and former Army Chief Gen. Subagyo HS chairs its board; the Great Indonesian Movement Party, or Gerindra, has two former Army commanders, Prabowo Subianto and Muchdi PR; while the United Development Party, or PPP, has retired Lieut. Gen. Yunus Yosfiah.

The Democratic Party has Yudhoyono, retired Rear Adm. Freddy Numbery and former police commander Bachtiar Effendy.

The Prosperous Justice Party, or PKS, has no one of military or police background in its organizational structure but former Jakarta gubernatorial candidate, retired Comr. Gen. Adang Darajatun, has announced himself as a legislative candidate from the party.

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDI-P, has two former Army commanders, retired Lt. Gen. Theo Syafei and retired Maj. Gen. Adang Ruchiatna.

Back to January Menu
December 2008

World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu