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EINDHOVEN - Reform is a process of dismantling and putting things back together. As such, the more unbending and unyielding an institution, the greater the pain it will feel when undergoing a process of reform. The Indonesian Military (TNI), like any other military organization in other parts of the world, is an organization that is intrinsically conservative. Consequently, the price of reforming it has become relatively more taxing compared with the reform of other institutions.
This is the price the current administration under President Abdurrahman Wahid is paying for its effort to carry out radical reform of TNI. His intention to place generals considered to be towing the reform line in very senior positions has been challenged by the conservative circle. Still, this does not mean that no progress has been made. Figures replacing outgoing top military brass, with some exceptions, are generally moderates.
The next question that crops up following the takeover of various military positions by the newly appointed generals is whether they will be able to deliver TNI out of its present crisis. Concerns have been voiced about the capability and agility of these moderate generals to resolve TNI issues in the face of such rapid ongoing changes. As an old saying goes, a tough problem generally requires a radical solution and even a change in the paradigm. If they lack caution, these generals may even lapse into becoming ‘champions of mediocrity, keepers of antiquity’.
Take a look at history. A moderate inclination, a strength in normal circumstances often becomes a weakness in a period of transition. It is not surprising, therefore, that followers of the Hindu faith, one of the world’s oldest religions, recognize the presence of three gods: Brahman, the creator Wisnu, the keeper and Syiwa who is assigned to destroy. Unless Syiwa has gotten rid of the old things, Brahma will not be able to proceed with forming new creations. Syiwa will not be able to carry out his work before Wisnu realizes that what was entrusted to him by Brahma in the past has become something archaic.

Of course, this principle of reform is not the exclusive domain of the Hindu religion alone. Buddhists also believe in the principle of securing a better reincarnation in which a soul, after leaving the physical body, will appear in a new form of life in the next incarnation. Christians and Muslims also share the view that entry into heaven is only possible after human beings have parted with their physical bodies.
Unfortunately, consciousness of the danger of obsoleteness has yet to register among the newly elected elite of TNI. Yet, this does not mean that there is no hope left. Although General Endriartono Sutarto and other new leaders of the Indonesian Army have a reputation of being moderates, they, nevertheless, are known to have taken firm and bold measures in times of crisis. What is significant and in fact of paramount importance is that input received before a decision is made is of high quality and accurate.
Now the problem lies in the quality of the information network system at the disposal of the leaders of TNI. In general, the experience of nations in other parts of the world that have moved through a transition from an authoritarian to a democratic system shows that the main challenges and obstacles are posed by the military intelligence circle. This is understandable because the longer an authoritarian system remains in power, the more it is dependent on the military intelligence network. As a result, the military intelligence circle is given special treatment and is, therefore, supportive of the status quo.
It is natural, therefore, if the same intelligence group strives to bring into existence a new authoritarian regime at a time when the reform process is unfurling. This can only be achieved through the support of the military and the mobilization of public opinion which reflects disappointment of the democratic civilian government. This trend is becoming obvious in this republic, though legally it is difficult to pinpoint the group responsible for this development.

Thankfully, however, history has shown that such a vicious and sneaky attempt has, in general, met with failure. There are still high hopes that reform will bring Indonesia to a better future. The problem now is how to contrive and minimize the price of transition, which the group with a vicious interest is seeking to maximize.
One of the most effective measures of deterring this negative threat is through enhancing and promoting greater openness with the public. The efforts of TNI to resolve its internal conflicts through the empowerment of its Officers Honor Council (DKP) should be given full support. Also this process of seeking a solution should be transparent, as this would allow the quality of the decisions arrived at to be tested and evaluated objectively by the public at large.
The openness of the process undertaken by the council will have strategic value because charges leveled against officers with a reformist inclination have been based on intelligence data. In this context, DKP will be an effective instrument to gauge if the intelligence of TNI is capable of coming up with high quality information or whether DKP itself is a source of intrigue and slander as well as a basis for mobilizing public opinion to remove professional officers and to promote its favored agents in the hierarchy of the organization. If the council conducts its activities in a clandestine manner, then such a move will have the potential of turning DKP into a council for promoting the interests of problematic officers.
Such concern is not excessive. France noted that the late General Charles de Gaulle was at one time given the death penalty by a closed military tribunal but the former president of France later became a hero of his country. The same goes for the late General Abdul Haris Nasution, who at one point in his military career was found guilty by the Honorary Council of Officers. General Nasution is now looked upon as a great general and recognized as the father of the Indonesian Army.
The choice of directing the council rests on the shoulders of General Endriartono Sutarto. We are obliged to support him in making the right choices because this nation needs a TNI that is strong and loved by the people.

Posted in Military @ 25 October 2000 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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