'How reformist can the Indonesian Military be?'

The Indonesian Military (TNI) began its internal reformin 1998. But, has the reform had impact on TNI and its personnel.   Air Force Chief of Staff Marshall Hanafie Asnan looks at theimplementation of the policy.

Question: What benefit has the internal reform contributed to the Air Force?

Answer: The internal reform has made us more confident in performing our duties. This is due to the new doctrine introduced that in facing  a war, the three military branches (the Army, the Navy, the Air Force) perform their responsibilities together as a united force without one dominating the others.  This condition did not exist in the past, even in the earlier period  when I was appointed as the Air Force chief in 1998. Now, all forces are supposed to be equal.

 The Army dominated TNI in the past. Has the 'domination' decreased?

I admit that it (the Army's domination) can still be felt until now.  And those used to that situation will react negatively when the power is taken from them.

While talking about equality, will you be disappointed if in the next military reshuffle, the leadership of TNI will not be given to an Air Force general, considering the Air Force now holds the TNI leadership?

 As a soldier, I must accept that the government has the authority to decide military leadership. Equality does not mean that the rotationsystem in appointing the TNI leadership is a must. As long as the post is held by the right person, I don't have any objection. I, myself, will not encourage my members to challenge the government's decision.

What about the opinion by certain people that the Air Force does not have enough 'flight hours' to hold the TNI leadership?

It's the opinion of people who do not understand about the military organization. I believe everyone has the capability to lead, no matter whether he is from the Navy, Army or Air Force. However, I admit that  if an Air Force officer holds the military's top position, we should be aware that the other forces might mess with us.

How do you see the existence of the TNI faction in the People's Consultative Assembly/ House of Representatives (MPR/DPR)?

The presence of the TNI faction in the MPR/DPR is probably because the political parties are not ready to be politically independent or the political elite expect TNI support. In this case, the TNI faction in considered as their (politicians') instrument.

Currently, the only Air Force senior officer holding a significant position in TNI is Vice Marshal Ian Santoso who chairs the Military Intelligence Strategic Agency (Bais). How capable is the Air Force's intelligence apparatus?

The Bais organization is mostly run by Army personnel from the Regional Military commands or the Army Special Force (Kopassus). Air Force personnel were once excluded from Bais several years ago. Now, with the new structure, we hope we can create a war intelligence with good ability to predict the power of any enemy and to protect our country from threats by other countries. In the past, our intelligencebody covered a wide range of activities, including to spy on common people and businessmen. It was totally unprofessional.

Do you agree with the opinion that our intelligence is weak?

Yes, I do. Because, currently bombings occur without prior warning or detection. But, I wonder whether the bombings occurred because of our poor intelligence capability, or were our intelligence personnel  involved?

What has been the result of lobbying efforts to countries that had suspended military aid to Indonesia?

Positive. I've met with the British Ambassador to Indonesia and asked him to lift the suspension on military aid. I asked him how can Indonesia improve the professionalism of its military personnel ifthey imposed the embargo.Besides, the Air Force missions were not only to conduct military activities, but also to perform civic missions. Britain, a European country, will gladly lift the suspension. Unfortunately, the United States has yet to lift it, and it gives us ahuge impact because most of our Air Force equipment came from theUnited States.

How do you perceive your relationship with the political elite, including the President?

People may think that I am close to the President or to the Vice President. In fact, I never feel like the President's man. I have been appointed to lead the Air Force because the state needs me. Have the political elite really set TNI free to appoint its own leadership?That is what TNI really expects ... that none of the political elite interfere in TNI's internal affairs. Their intervention will make the military unprofessional and be much involved in politics. That's what is happening in TNI. But, I guess it's normal, particularly for those who are very ambitious and even willing 'to kiss the state leaders' hands' in order to get a convenient position. (--*Hanafie is a 1969 graduate of the Air Force Academy (AAU). He was born in Bangkalan, Madura, East Java, on Nov. 7, 1945)

*Published by The Jakarta Post on January 9, 2001