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Security reform

Published: Jul 26, 2007

Riefqi Muna

Under the umbrella of the ‘war on terror’, the White House has gained Congressional approval to remove some of the restrictions on military-to-military relations between America and Indonesia. At present, American support for Indonesia’s military is still limited to Extended International Military Education and Training, which allows Indonesian military officers to attend American military educational institutions at select regional centres for non-lethal training.

When Secretary of State Colin Powell visited Indonesia in August 2002, it was reported that the White House was requesting Congressional approval for US$50 million in security assistance to Indonesia, half of which was to be channelled into the police force. This shift in American policy toward reinstating military relations with Indonesia significantly changes the dynamics of US-Indonesian ties. While there are other influences and forces at play, there is undoubtedly a connection between military reform in Indonesia and the greater global context in which it is taking place.

Global policy shift

The Bush administration has replaced Clinton’s ‘enlargement and engagement of liberal democracy’ approach to ensuring global stability with a new strategy of ‘pre-emption’ and uni-lateralism in which all states are forced to choose to be ‘with us or witä the terrorists’. This strategy was reinforced by the creation of the Homeland Security Department, which resulted in a more robust American security organisation capable of carrying out greater offensive security strategies.

America’s new security approach is narrowly focused on the hunt for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and the uprooting of the ‘tentacle of terror’ — Jama’ah Islamiyah — in Southeast Asia. This is despite the obvious fact that the issue of terrorism is far more complex than this tactic suggests, and is intricately bound up in global and domestic political, economic, security and other issues.

Reviving conservatives

In Indonesia, the catchcry of reformasi is rarely heard any more, and the state’s commitment to policy reform is all but dead. The incumbent Megawati government lacks leadership and vision. Despite praise for her cabinet when she first came to power, Megawati appears to have adopted a ‘no policy’ stance, especially in the area of reform of Indonesia’s security apparatus. Yet reform of the security sector is fundamental for achieving a democratic Indonesia.

Reform of Indonesia’s security forces thus far has been limited to firstly, the separation of the police from the armed forces, and secondly, an end to military involvement in ‘day-to-day politics’ by discharging serving military officers from civilian posts. This occurred in August 2002, when the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) agreed to scrap the military’s and police’s automatic seats in both the MRP and the House by 2004. Should military and police officers want to join the legislative bodies, they have to contest in general elections, for which they have to resign from the service. Thirdly, the security forces held a relatively neutral position during the 1999 national elections. Little if any other reform of the security forces has been achieved.

The old security doctrines developed by 1950s army commander General Nasution remain deeply rooted in Indonesian military strategy and thinking. These doctrines include the notion of the ‘dual function’, whereby the military plays a political as well as an internal security role, and strategic reliance on ‘counter-guerrilla’ actions, by which the military is supposed to remain deeply embedded in the civilian population. More than two thirds of the army’s elite were trained and nurtured in the army’s territorial system, which parallels civilian posts at every level in every province. There has been little change in this system, or in the curriculum of new defence force recruits. To make matters worse, elite civilian politicians still perceive the military in terms of political power, and not as an element of the state that serves civilian needs.

Reform of the security apparatus and promotion of human rights are integral to broader reform in Indonesia. Both have suffered because of the Indonesian elite’s struggle to cling to traditional methods of power. Poverty of vision and a lack of will to implement strategic reforms continue under a corrupt bureaucracy and a stubborn political elite that are power hungry, greedy, and forgetful of its constituents. Add the effect of the global context, in which security discourse has been pre-eminent, and we see reform of the security forces being undermined by an anti-reformist group taking advantage of the rhetoric of national interest and global security to serve its own ends. This nexus is evident in several critical ways.

Shock and awe

Firstly, there is much less focus on issues of democracy and human rights than in the years immediately following the downfall of the Suharto regime. The global ‘war on terrorism’ has crippled rigorous debate on matters of civil liberties world-wide. Emphasis lies heavily on security. Renewed military ties between Australia, the US and Indonesia have caused great concern among Indonesian pro-democracy activists that the military will continue to act with impunity, and that the Australian and American governments will strive to legitimise re-engagement rather than condemn military human rights violations. Training and enhanced professionalism (the reason these Western governments usually give for engagement) is indeed essential. However, the legitimation of an unreformed and unrepentant military is counter-productive to the promotion of democratic control over the armed forces in Indonesia.

Nowhere is this emphasis more evident than in the current ‘security operations’ in Aceh. Within the global context of the ‘war on terrorism’, proponents of military operations in Aceh have used neo-conservative security rhetoric to win international legitimacy. Military officers surrounding Megawati have labelled the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) a terrorist group, against which pre-emptive and unilateral strikes, like the US ‘shock and awe’ campaign in Iraq, are justified. This is despite ample historical evidence that military operations in Aceh cannot solve the secessionist problem and will not guarantee the unity of the Indonesian state.

Security legislation

There has been political interference in, and military domination of, the development of security legislation in Indonesia. Democratic states obviously can and should regulate security matters to ensure the protection of their people. However, the way in which such legislation has been formulated in Indonesia in recent times has tended to violate the principles of human rights and due legal process.

This was evident in the recent controversy surrounding the drafting of the Bill on the Structure and Organisation of the Armed Forces. This Bill, which was put to the Indonesian parliament in March 2003, seeks authority for the TNI to declare a state of ýmergency and deploy security personnel without prior approval from the president. The Bill contradicts the newly amended constitution and the National Defence Law, which stipulates that the president alone, in his or her capacity as the supreme commander of military, has the authority to declare a state of emergency and order the deployment of troops to conflict-torn areas. The president is required to secure prior approval from the House of Representatives (DPR) or report the decision to the House within 24 hours.

In the interests of civilianisation and democratisation of the armed forces, the drafting of new defence force legislation was supposed to entail transparent and consultative processes. However, as was widely reported in the Indonesian media, the final Bill was the result of an undemocratic usurpation of the drafting process, using classic army strong-arm tactics. Civilian experts involved in the original drafting process openly rejected the resulting Bill, because it does not accommodate democratic values and principles of accountability. This is evident in Article 19, which states that: ‘the Chief of Defence can deploy troops without permission from the president (civil authority).’ There are many other problems with the new security Bill, particularly surrounding the issues of military budgeting and auditing, reform of which was rejected by the military.

The Indonesian military elite has used the priority of national security and unity to thwart reform of the territorial command structure. This structure allows the Indonesian military to generate up to 75 per cent of its own budget by controlling legal and illegal business operations at the local level. The success of this system is hinged on the fact that the armed forces are not geographically structured to defend the archipelagic nation, but to mirror the civilian administrative structure. They have defence posts shadowing each level of civilian administration, from the smallest village up to the national level. This structure will not produce an Indonesian defence system capable of defending the nation.

There is undoubtedly a correlation between the resurgence of neo-conservatism in the US and the slowing down of security sector reform in Indonesia. The new US security agenda sends dangerous signals for the future direction of Indonesian democracy, and especially for the potential for military intervention in the political process. When considering renewed military ties, the US, Australia and others should pay attention to the issues of security sector reform rather than simply the military’s ability to combat terrorism.

Both the global and local political contexts have proved to be stumbling blocks for security sector reform in Indonesia. International support is needed to promote reform, as are national leaders with vision and courage.

Riefqi Muna (Riefqi@Runbox.com) is a PhD student at the Royal Military College of Science, UK, and works with Global Facilitation Network for Security Sector Reform (www.gfn-ssr.org).

Inside Indonesia 77: Jan - Mar 2004

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