White paper on national defense policy launched

The government launched on Monday a white paper on defense strategy, which calls for maintaining the military's much-criticized territorial function.

The territorial function, which includes Army bases and posts at all administration levels down to the village level, has been blamed for TNI's dominating political role during the leadership of former president Soeharto.

The white paper, authored by the Defense Ministry, describes various threats facing the country in the 21st century, including separatist movements, terrorism, piracy, illegal logging and people trafficking.

According to the Defense Ministry's director general for defense strategy Maj. Gen. Sudrajat, the Indonesian military's territorial function was still relevant in order to develop the country's defense strength.

"Indonesia is not an established country like the United States or Britain. Armed separatist movements mar the country, while the police currently face difficulties in coping with armed separatist movements," Sudrajat said during a seminar marking the white paper's official launching.

He, nevertheless, added that the government should strictly monitor the its territorial function to prevent deviation from the socio-political context.

The seminar also included Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) member Dewi Fortuna Anwar, the British Ambassador to Indonesia Richard Gozney, several military attaches from friendly countries, as well as experts and military analysts from various institutions.

The white paper was presented in an attempt to help the public understand the key points of Indonesia's defense concepts and strategy following the separation of the National Police from the Indonesian military (TNI) in 2000.

According to the People's Consultative Assembly (DPR) decree No. 7/2000, the police force is now tasked with handling domestic security, while the TNI is supposed to be limited to defending the country from external security threats. However, the military has reserved the right to decide if it needs to intervene in handling domestic security issues.

The 1998 reform movement also sought to scrap the TNI's socio-political function known as dwifungsi, or dual function, on the grounds that the military, specifically the Army, has long abused the role for certain interests.

Dewi, one of the speakers at the seminar, said that the decision to keep the TNI's territorial function was due to "the military's wariness that scrapping its territorial function would betray the institution's dual function."

"I think the wariness is no longer relevant because I don't see that people will condemn its defense force if they carried out their own duties properly.

"Meanwhile, a close relationship between the military and civilians creates negative influences for the soldiers because civilians have different values which often contradict military values, especially in dealing with political and business matters," Dewi said.

Meanwhile, Rizal Sukma of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said the territorial function was not only the answer to the separatist issues in the country, because "what we need is a development of the defense force that enables us to deal with various external threats."

"There are also threats of illegal logging, or women and children trafficking, or piracy. I don't know how the Army with its omnipresence of military commands copes with these," Rizal said.

*Published by The Jakarta Post April 1, 2003