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Reform of TNI stalls, 12 years after split from police: Imparsial

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Fri, 05/11/2012 8:33 AM
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The National Police were separated from the Indonesian Military 12 years ago, and critics are saying that the process of reforming the nation’s security apparatus has been stillborn ever since. 

According to Imparsial, the Indonesian human rights watchdog, the last time the government tried to reform the nation’s security apparatus was in 2005, when President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono lifted the military emergency status in Aceh. 

“Even the House of Representatives has reached a deadlock in deliberating the bill on military tribunals. This bill marks an important milestone in security sector reform, as it would require fair public trials for TNI members accused of crimes,” Imparsial program director Al Araf said.

Al Araf also said that the House had dragged its feet in deliberating the intelligence bill, passed into law in 2011 after years of back and forth with the government, to ensure better civilian oversight of the nation’s intelligence agencies.

“The National Intelligence Agency [BIN] chief has always been an active-duty military officer. This might mean that BIN could receive orders from the TNI chief, as the former is officially subordinate to the latter,” Al Araf said.

Military domination of the nation’s spy agencies was underscored by the ouster of former National Police chief Gen. (ret.) Sutanto as BIN chief in October, and his replacement by Lt. Gen. Marciano Norman, an active-duty Army officer.

Imparsial also said that the TNI had spent billions of US dollars on weapon systems with little oversight from the House of Representatives, as indicated by the problematic purchase of Russian-made Sukhoi fighter jets.

The watchdog identified the “golden period” of reform for the security sector as the presidency of Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid, from 1999 to 2001.

“Gus Dur made a lot of progress, such as abolishing the ‘dual role’ of the Indonesian Military so that it could focus only on defense, and shifted the burden of security to the National Police,” Al Araf said.

However, he added that the separation of powers between the TNI and the National Police had not been effective, with the group recording 135 cases of police brutality between 2008 and 2010 alone. 

A survey compiled by the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute Foundation (YLBHI) in 2008 said that 283 out of 367 respondents had been tortured by police officers during interrogation.

Lawmaker Helmy Fauzi, a member of House Commission I overseeing defense and intelligence, said that reform of the security sector might help the government cope with its excessive spending.

“With reform, the government could have an efficient budgeting process, as strict procedures would prevent the military from coming up with a ‘phantom budget’,” Helmy said.

Helmy also said that the House should not take the blame for the sluggish pace of reform.

He attributed the long delays in deliberating the intelligence and national security bills to lawmakers’ reluctance to grant the TNI a greater role in resolving domestic security situations.

“We returned the bill to the government because we did not want the military to dominate civilian life. The House wanted to make sure that the bill did not violate civilian constitutional rights,” he said.

Helmy said that lawmakers had not always won the day, despite good intentions, describing the House’s recent endorsement of the social conflict management bill, which defined a greater role for the TNI in domestic politics, as a setback for reform.

Meanwhile, Nawawi Bahrudin of the International NGO Forum for Indonesian Development (Infid) said that freely operating radical groups also showed the failure of reform.

“These groups even act as a surrogate for the police by cracking down on night spots or drug dealers. It should be the role of the police,” he said. (fzm)

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