TNI, BRIMOB AND STATE TERROR IN THE MOLUCCAS
Partners in crime
Sydney Morning Herald November 2, 2002
They are our new allies in the war against terrorism. But Indonesia's military and security agencies seem more intent on fighting each other for economic spoils than tracking down extremists. Hamish McDonald and Matthew Moore report.
Early this week, a military attache with a Western embassy in Jakarta was given a tip-off by senior officers in Indonesian armed forces headquarters: the head of the counter-terrorism unit with the Indonesian army's special forces had been identified as a source of the explosives used in the October 12 bombings in Bali.
The attache and other defence analysts quickly identified what this was all about: discrediting the father-in-law of the officer mentioned, who happens to be retired general A.M. Hendropriyono, the head of the state intelligence agency, or BIN, which is eclipsing the military role in anti-terrorism.
That such a transparent piece of disinformation could be attempted at relatively high levels of the military - and be met with a ho-hum reaction by its recipients - testifies to an astonishing level of credulity here about what agencies of the state are capable of doing.
One conspiracy theory after another has hit the media or circulated around the Jakarta elite this week.
One front-page story had two prominent generals as masterminds of the Bali bombings. Another theory pointed to former defence minister General Wiranto. On Wednesday, US ambassador Ralph Boyce had to fend off renewed questioning from local reporters suggesting the CIA had a hand in the attack.
On Thursday, newspapers quoted police chief General Da'i Bachtiar raising suspicions about separatists in remote Aceh province.
Way down the list of suspects, it seems, are the organisations that Western governments most strongly suspect: Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist group from the Middle East, and Jemaah Islamiah, a similar-minded local group of radical Islamists who aspire to create a pan-Islamic state including all believers in South-East Asia.
Indonesians don't know much about these two groups. The first is remote from their experience, the second a fringe group with outlandish ideas. But Indonesians do know about their own military, police and intelligence agencies, which is why these conspiracy theories fly.
Over decades, Indonesians have seen their security agencies stage all kinds of provocations and fake terrorist incidents for political ends. They also know them to be deeply corrupt.
The country has opened up immensely since the 1998 fall of former president Soeharto, whose authoritarian rule has been replaced by election-based politics. But the security forces remain their own masters and, in the eyes of many critics, continue to foment violent outbreaks and exacerbate crises around Indonesia to justify their special role.
The armed forces, or TNI (Tentara Nasional Indonesia), still largely fund themselves from a mix of legal and illegal business activities that raise an estimated $6.4 billion a year, as against their funding from the Government budget of only $3.2 billion. TNI-controlled "charitable foundations" run 64 companies in everything from shopping centres to airlines to logging, while the army, navy and air force have their own empires. But by far the most lucrative are protection payments paid by private enterprises, from huge resource companies down to criminals behind gambling, drugs and prostitution.
This wasn't such a security problem until Soeharto's fall. Since then, the military's grip on its cash flow has been challenged from other quarters.
The police, previously run as the fourth branch of the armed forces, were taken out of the Defence Department and put under civilian control two years ago. While the military have been left with their network of domestic garrisons known as the Territorial Command structure, a new law also gives the police responsibility for internal security - without extra funding or resources.
Another major change has been the devolution of political authority from Jakarta to the 30 provinces and 400 local governments, which have gained direct access to much of the tax revenue from mining and timber.
Alongside the power and funds, corruption and extortion have also been decentralised.
The result is that police and army units are now fighting for control of protection rackets and other sources of income across the country.
Last month, at Binjai in North Sumatra, an army airborne unit tied up its officers and attacked two local police stations using rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons, killing eight police and civilians, in a squabble over 1.5 tonnes of cannabis.
“After [former strongman] Suharto stepped down in 1998, I was given the order to establish a paramilitary unit to fight students who were calling for elections and the removal of the military out of politics,” Zen said.
101 East looks at the human rights record of Indonesia's anti-terror police unit BRIMOB
Indonesia maintains a strong military presence in Maluku –
George Aditjondro- "TNI is still present in places where big investments exist and we can still see a link between investment and military interests."
The armed forces continue to foment violent outbreaks and exacerbate crises around Indonesia to justify their special role.