Agus Widjojo, Governor, National Resilience Institute: We Are Too Dependent on TNI
The army’s role in the recent sweeping operation to bring down the banners bearing Islam Defenders’ Front leader Muhammad Rizieq Shihab around Jakarta unsettled Agus Widjojo, governor of National Defense Institute (Lemhannas).
AGUS said the sweep ordered by Maj. Gen. Dudung Abdurrachman, the Jayakarta district military command’s commander, went beyond the military’s jurisdiction. “TNI (Indonesian Military) can’t launch actions on its own,” Agus, 73, said in a special interview with Tempo at his office last Tuesday, December 8.
Agus pointed out that it was the job of the regional government or the police to regulate billboards and banners, even more so if they need to be removed due to permit or tax issues or the contents were deemed provocative. “It’s all about law enforcement,” he said adding that TNI’s core duty is to defend the country from outside military threats. The military may respond to regional head’s requests for assistance but such requests must be made to the president, not the regional military commands’ commanders.
Having served as the Lemhannas’s governor for the last four years, the retired three-star general who saw the military’s involvement in civilian affairs as a danger threw light on TNI’s role and responsibilities in various matters. He reminded that the during the New Order era the military was a powerful institution which held a non-mandated dual function and was actively involved in the government. He also observed that the military reform process has slowed down as the political power is rebuilt via direct elections. “Many remaining elements of the reform process were neglected and abandoned,” Agus lamented.
Agus spoke to Tempo reporters Stefanus Pramono, Mahardika Satria Hadi and Nur Alfiyah about various matters, from the military-political relations, the military’s role in fighting terrorism to the Rizieq Shihab phenomenon. The former general who has advocated reconciliation as a solution to end the 1965 tragedy also discussed ideas about placing the armed forces and the police under a ministry as well as possible solutions on Papua.
Why do you view that the army’s involvement in the removal of the Rizieq Shihab banners was not in line with TNI’s jurisdiction?
TNI can’t launch actions on its own. The armed forces ‘belongs to’ the president. To put it metaphorically, the military commander-in-chief is a chauffeur who drives the boss’s car. Although he’s at the wheel, it is the boss who gives directions. It’s time TNI stopped feeling like it was the sole guardian of the nation.
So, TNI must not make its own decisions about what to do?
President is the one who has the mandate. So, there is no direct relation between the military and the people. The public have directly elected and given the mandate to public officials. The president sits at the center of the executive branch. It means the public have lent sovereignty to the president to run this country, to improve their welfare and to provide a sense of security. The same goes for all the regional heads.
It means only the president can give orders to the TNI?
The procedure to seek TNI’s assistance is initiated at the regional government level as regional heads are responsible for security and law enforcement in their regions. If a regional head feels that a given condition in his or her region constitutes a security emergency which can no longer be handled by the police, he or she may report to the president and ask for TNI’s assistance. Because the military belongs to the president.
What is the danger if the TNI decides actions on its own?
It holds the guns.
What prompted TNI to take such an initiative in the recent billboard removal sweep?
This is a usual dual-function habit. The TNI is used to standing watch, so when it saw something it considered as inappropriate, it immediately stepped in and took action. But they were holding the guns. It’s okay if the guns were handled correctly but if they were not, who could stop them?
Couldn’t the regional heads directly ask for help from the Pangdam (the regional command’s commander)?
No, they can’t. Pangdam can’t initiate actions. The order must come from the president, first to the defense minister, then to the TNI chief and finally to the unit chief, that is, Pangdam. The state must be governed correctly. Otherwise, it will be a long transition to democracy.
Do you feel that Indonesia is still in transition to democracy?
I do. Juan J. Linz (the author of Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation) said the democratic transition is completed if everyone believes that democracy is a way to find solutions to every problem. Democracy as ‘the only game in town’. Look at the incident yesterday. There are mass mobilization, intimidation and pressure involved. A lot of people still resort to such means. It means we are still in the transition period.
How long will the democratic transition last in Indonesia?
That cannot be measured by time but rather by people’s way of resolving differences. If everyone can adapt to democratic principles and ways, then we have passed the transition period.
Is the military’s involvement in the public realm not one of democratic ways?
Is it legal? Is it constitutional? It all began from a Pangdam, you see? That’s where it went wrong.
Is the Pangdam’s initiative wrong?
Yes, it is.
Who actually should intervene and take care of the Rizieq Shihab banners?
It shouldn’t have been the TNI for sure. The TNI is never meant to be a law enforcement apparatus. No army in the world takes the law enforcement role. This is a jurisdiction issue. The banners didn’t have a permit? Are they provocative? Or their taxes not paid? They are all law enforcement matters. The police should have taken actions.
What if the police asked the TNI to help?
Asking the TNI to help pull down the banners? Really? Unless the police officers were short. Let’s not measure everything based on self-satisfaction, or (supposed) heroism. We must continue to build the national system. The TNI shouldn’t be the only smart one in this country to move Indonesia forward. All must be on par with the TNI. We are over-reliant on the TNI. Under the New Order regime, everything was taken care of by the TNI and Suharto. When a ministry was ineffective, the TNI would take it over. We’ve become so dependent on the TNI. We must not anymore. Today, if there are ineffective ministries, we wake them up.
Who should wake them up?
Indonesia practices the presidential system. We don’t have prime minister.
The TNI has improved a lot since the reformasi era. Why does its presence in civilian affairs seem to have strengthened lately?
The TNI has certainly determined and initiated its reform. But when it returned to the norm, that is, when all the decisions to mobilize TNI is made by the political authority which was re-established in 2004, TNI’s reform process suffered a setback.
The slowdown in fact has occurred since the first direct elections were held?
Yes. That’s a sign that the political authority was reestablished as a result of the amendment to the 1945 Constitution. The challenge now lies there. Is the political authority effectively managing and tackling defense matters as well as the armed components? They all have to be initiated by the political authority. TNI can no longer decide for itself what it should do.
Why did the military reform lose steam precisely during the era of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who came from the military background?
That’s the fact. A lot of reform initiatives have been neglected, then discontinued and abandoned.
The appointment of the military chief to the defense ministry, reform and re-functionalization of territorial command, firmness in dealing with soldiers on trial. I’m not talking about reforms in military justice, okay, but about our agreement regarding violations by soldiers. Some say they should be tried in public courts. But we also have courts-martial. So, we are not yet speaking in one voice about that. The military reform isn’t about policies but rather about its role and jurisdiction. They are not negotiable and there are no alternatives. That’s why the military reform is actually about restoring and refining TNI’s role and authority in line with the constitution.
What are TNI’s true role and authority?
Are we aware that the 1945 Constitution never mandated the dual function? It never mandated the TNI any other role outside national defense. It never mandated sishankamrata (the universal public defense and security system) to be adopted through the establishment of Rakyat Terlatih (Trained People), Keamanan Rakyat (Public Security), Pertahanan Sipil (Civil Defense), and many others.
What caused everything to shift away from the constitution?
Everything has been accommodated in Law No. 20/1982 on fundamental provisions for defense and security of the Republic of Indonesia. The constitution neither mandated the integration of the national police into the republic’s armed forces. That was the point of intersection where the functions later became defense and security. The real role described in the constitution is the national defense, not defense and security.
If you refer to that, the TNI commander-in-chief should be under the defense minister?
If the TNI commander is immediately under the president what is the function of the defense minister (Menhan)? Does he receive orders directly from the president? Does he also join cabinet meetings which are of political nature? That is still ambivalent. Only in a state of war, is president TNI’s ex officio commander-in-chief. In day-to-day management, he hands over the authority to the defense minister to prepare policies and budget for the armed forces.
Why is it more fitting to place the TNI chief under the defense minister?
That’s a universal practice of all democratic countries. Let’s use logic. If an operational institution is directly under the president, will he have the time to take specific care of that institution? He should be relieved of operational burden. It’s too a trivial matter for the president. All state’s operational functions should be distributed to ministers. As such, the president shall have the freedom to think strategically for the future, about a broad range of issues.
How about the national police chief who is also directly responsible to the president?
The same applies to the police now. Is it possible for the president to think about the police, law enforcement and homeland security matters?
If it’s not to the president, to whom should the national police chief report to?
As typically done in other countries, the police force is governed by the home affairs ministry. In Indonesia, it was once under the attorney-general as the law enforcement authority. In some countries, if home minister is overburdened, a homeland security institution is established, like in the United States, Australia and Singapore. Now whose policies do the police implement? Who allocates their budget? What about the distribution of jobs and responsibilities within the police, the national counter-terrorism agency as well as the national anti-narcotics agency the members of which are all police officers?
Being directly under the president doesn’t make the TNI and National Police vulnerable to being used as political tools?
Let us not assume based on negative prejudice against politicization. This country will never be free of politics because president is a political figure. But the authority needs to be divided for the sake of efficiency. Any institution that wants to be untouched by politics should build a rocket and go to the moon.
How should the relation between the military and the president be like?
In essence, the military must be loyal to and defend the constitution. But as long as the president is a constitutionally elected leader, he is an ‘extension’ of the constitution. The TNI must loyal to the president except when the latter commits an offence. The TNI will bow to the constitution but TNI can’t judge the president, let alone replace him. A deviant president is a political matter.
You once rejected a government decree to involve TNI in counter-terrorism efforts. Do you still maintain that stance?
I still do. Actually, it’s not about whether or not the TNI should take part in fighting terrorism. It can, provided we assess the terrorism first, whether it’s an international or a domestic one. Any (terror act) that happens within the national boundaries basically is a criminal act. It means it’s a violation of the law which should be handled by law enforcement authorities. Second, the TNI and National Police have different ways of carrying out their duties.
How are they different?
For example, when the special elite force (Kopassus) troops were brought in during the Bali or Marriot bombing incidents, they came in as a fully armed platoon and bang bang bang! and all terrorists were gone. Their job is to paralyze and annihilate the enemies. Meanwhile, the police have to find evidence and submit them to court. Their system has a cool name and it is called criminal justice system.
Don’t TNI also have anti-terror units?
Anti-terror units can be deployed in circumstances. Like when the Garuda Woyla plane was hijacked. That was an anti-terror operation. At sea, when a vessel ship-jacked by Somalian pirates. Or for a hostage release operation done with approval from the respective government. These are all international operations. But domestic terror in essence is a violation of the law therefore must be handled by law enforcement authorities. Soldiers are not for enforcing the laws.
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Benny Wenda, the leader of United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) some time ago declared the formation of West Papua interim government. How should the government respond to this?
Declaring a state within a state is an act of treason as stipulated in the Criminal Codes.
Conflicts continue and escalate further in Papua. What do you think is actually happening in Papua?
It’s hard for us to manage ethnic groups that feel that the results of development in their home are different from those of their brothers in other regions. They formed their own perceived deprivation, a feeling of lacking something according to their perception although it may not be true in reality. Given the physical differences coupled with ineffective policies, it’s easy to be provoked even though governmental positions there are occupied by Papuan people themselves. If they stack all their grievances up, they’ve got a strong reason to revolt.
Is the factual condition there different from what most Papuans perceive it to be?
Actually, the Indonesian government has never meant to treat them differently from other ethnic groups or citizens. The fund allocated to Papua was quite massive. That’s what I call a perceptual problem.
Human rights violations continue to occur there. The latest case was the death of Pastor Yeremia Zanambani in Intan Jaya Regency allegedly at the hands of the TNI. What do you think of this case?
Actually, it should be resolved according to the law and all the related parties should have the goodwill to find resolution. The cause behind the case must be revealed. If the TNI is dragged in, it must also have the will to resolve the matter and re-orientate their focus in training the soldiers. All sides must be honest and transparent and not cover up the facts.
• Rank: Lieutenant General TNI (retired) • Place and Date of Birth: Solo, Central Java, June 8, 1947 • Education: National Armed Forces Academy (1970); Jungle Warfare Course, Australia (1972); Army Staff and Command School (1985); Master of Military Arts and Science, US Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, United States (1988); Army Command and Staff School (1990); Master of Science in National Security, National Defense University, Fort Myers, United States (1994); Master of Public Administration, George Washington University, United States (1994) • Career: Assistant for General Planning for the Chief of Staff of the Indonesian Army (1997-1998), Commander of the Army Command and Staff School (1998-1999), Chief of Army Territorial Staff (1999-2001), Deputy Chairperson of the People’s Consultative Assembly for the TNI / Polri Faction (2001- 2003), Deputy I of the Presidential Work Unit for Program Management and Reform (2006-2009), Member, Commission for Truth and Friendship of Indonesia-Timor-Leste (2005-2008), Member, Advisory Council of the National Defense Institute, Governor, National Resilience Institute (since April 15, 2016)
The government has explored all avenues from security, welfare to political approaches but many Papuan people’s desire for referendum is getting stronger. Any solutions?
Perhaps the government needs to try policies other than those that are good according to the central government. It should approach the locals and find out what sort of policies are good according to their criteria and needs. It’s certainly not easy because they are unstable but that will enable the government to adjust its initiatives accordingly and eventually win their hearts and minds.
Hasn’t the government been listening adequately to their aspirations?
There is still room to maneuver. There is always a dichotomy. One side feels that they have been mistreated. The other suspects that they are only aspiring to independence. So, they are both closed for negotiation and deliberation. Perhaps there are still opportunities that can still be opened and expanded for dialog. Just like in the past with Aceh.