Defense paper revives military's security role

A recently released white paper on Indonesia's defense points to "imminent domestic threats"as the country's biggest worry in the coming years, and suggests that the Indonesian Military (TNI) be handed back both security and defensive roles.

The paper, drafted by the Ministry of Defense, says that within the next 10 to 15 years Indonesia will not face serious threats from other countries in the form of invasion or military attack, but will face various domestic dangers, including radical movements, communal conflicts, terrorism and separatist movements.

In the absence of the threat of invasion, the paper identifies foreign threats as transnational crimes detrimental to the country's security, such as piracy, illegal logging and people smuggling.

According to the white paper, military operations significantly different from those associated with traditional warfare will be required to deal with these threats.

"As a defensive tool of the state, the TNI will play its role in handling these threats, while the National Police, as a security force, will carry out its main duty of upholding security and public order in line with the law on the National Police," the paper says.

The paper calls for the preservation of the military's much-criticized territorial function, arguing that tradition dictates that the armed forces cannot be separated from the people.

To make these principles operational would require revisions to People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) decrees No. 6/2000 on the separation of the TNI and the National Police and No. 7/2000 on the division of duties between the two forces.

The director general of defense strategy at the Ministry of Defense, Maj. Gen. Sudrajat, confirmed that the defense white paper was meant to open the debate about the need to review the MPR decrees.

"The separation of duties between the TNI and police should be seen from another point of view. This means that the government can use a military approach in dealing with armed rebellion, communal conflict or radicalism," Sudrajat told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

Sudrajat was referring to military deployments to quell sectarian conflicts in Maluku and the Central Sulawesi town of Poso between 1999 and 2002. These conflicts left thousands of people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.

He said dialog to resolve problems in the rebellious provinces of Aceh and Papua could be followed by the use of military force.

The white paper's focus on domestic security rather than foreign threats has caused some criticism.

Some military observers said the white paper failed to explain efforts to develop a professional military, which is the objective of internal reform within the military.

"The military's involvement in political institutions is not present in the white paper, but its extensive role in handling various social problems can pave the way for the TNI to engage in civilian affairs," Munir, a member of military watchdog Impartial, told the Post.

"Sadly, the paper legitimizes the military's efforts to maintain its territorial function, which should be gradually scrapped gradually in the spirit of reform."

The military has complained about budget shortfalls, saying efforts to create a professional force are hampered by a lack of funding. The state budget covers only 30 percent of the military's operational costs.

But Munir said other state institutions faced similar difficulties. "It is crucial for the TNI to allocate its budget properly rather than asking the government to increase defense spending."

Another military analyst, Ikrar Nusabakti of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, said the white paper could lead to the military's taking control of civil affairs, and increase public doubt about the police's ability to deal with domestic problems.

"Of course handling armed rebellion is part of the TNI's duties, but still the decision to use military force belongs to the civilian government," Ikrar said.

*Published by The Jakarta Post, 04/09/2003