Army 'runs Indonesia'
Herald Sun June 6, 2002
The military (TNI) still holds the real political power in Indonesia, four years after the end of President Suharto's dictatorship, according to a former defence minister.
And soldiers will continue to run Indonesia for at least the next decade, predicts Yuwono Sudarsono, who was the country's first civilian defence minister.
"It's the only institution that's holding the country together," Mr Sudarsono said. "Despite its shortcomings, it's the most organised, the most disciplined."
Mr Sudarsono was part of the country's first democratically elected government under Abdurrahman Wahid and was responsible for reducing the role of the TNI in politics by pulling them out of government jobs.
But politicians have failed to take up the role of the military, particularly in the provinces, Mr Sudarsono said.
"(Now) there are 250 mini Suhartos around the country at various levels doing their own thing with no worry at all about being prosecuted," he said.
Analysts agree that since President Megawati Sukarnoputri rose to power almost a year ago, the impetus to remove the military from political life has waned.
Mr Sudarsono asserts that Mrs Megawati needs the political backing of the TNI's parliamentary representatives in order to be re-elected in 2004.
© Herald and Weekly Times.
Analysis: Community-based military surveillance returns to Indonesia
By : Dr. Jim Schiller
channelnewsasia.com 27 October 2005
The Indonesian government plans to revive a community-based intelligence system run by the military.
Known locally as Koter, the system was scrapped after the fall of former President Suharto, but it has gained new support following the Bali bombings.
The system allows thousands of non-commissioned officers to act as the government’s eyes and ears at the village level in their search for terrorists.
The Presidential office noted that Koter was the only security mechanism available in the country to enable the government "to detect security threats in far-away places, in villages, and in places where the government has no access."
However, human rights activists worry that reintroducing such surveillance systems might lead to military repression amongst the communities across the republic.
How can the Indonesian government strengthen its counter-terrorism fight while ensuring the rights of its citizens are not violated?
Justin Teo spoke to Dr. Jim Schiller, an Indonesian specialist at the School of Political and International Studies at Flinders University in Australia, for more.
JS: Well, it’s always a delicate balance in trying to do that. I don’t think it’s an easy thing to do at all. I think the Indonesian government needs to be doing something, it needs to be seen to be doing something against terrorism. And the reestablishment of the local intelligence network at the village level is a natural part of that process.
JT: Could the strong political backing to reintroduce the intelligence network in communities be a response to the lack of progress hampering anti-terrorism investigations after the recent Bali bombings?
JS: It’s probably a public relations exercise to be seen to be doing something. I think the government is committed to do something because they need to go on and continue to have successful economic ties with the West and investment in Indonesia. So they want to be seen to be doing something and this is something which they can do which is not a major step.
JT: How much difference will this intelligence network give the Indonesian government in its anti-terrorism efforts?
JS: I think it formalizes a system that’s already there. In Indonesia, these NGOs which operate at the village level have been there since the 1960s. So now they are formalizing the process to make the movement of information up the chain from the village to the centres of command more efficient. But I don’t know it that is going to happen very quickly.
JT: There is still a deep mistrust between Indonesians and their military. Could this community intelligence network be carried out by the police instead?
JS: I’m sure that the police do have their own intelligence network as well. However, it’s not as well established as the military one. Yes, it might make more sense to have one done by the police than the military but the police do not have a very good reputation in Indonesia either.
JT: Even if this community-based intelligence network is revived by the military, could it lead to conflicts between the Indonesian army and the police instead of fostering closer ties?
JS: I don’t see an immediate, very large effect on that. The problem for the military is that they are demoralized because they have lost a lot of the power which they once had, when their political activities were taken away from them and their security activities were taken away by the police. So there is still room for conflict between the army and police because the police is seen to be having greater access to resources than the military.
JT: How much pressure is the Indonesian government facing from the international community to be more effective in its fight against terrorism?
JS: I think quite a lot. They are under heavy pressure not just from its ASEAN neighbors but also from the United States and its allies. I think that the Indonesian government is reasonably committed to the process. The government knows that it’s not as strong as an autocratic government. It’s now a democratic government and its power is more divided in society than it was once before. And there are some major Muslim organizations that see the crackdown on terror as being making Indonesia as a subservient nation, a quiet nation, to the United States. So they don’t want that to happen. So the government is forced to take someaction and but it also needs to be careful in what it does, and not upset its own political balance in Indonesia. - RSI Dr. Jim Schiller, an Indonesian specialist at the School of Political and International Studies at Flinders University in Australia.
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