Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Agus Widjojo: Career Expansion will Disgrace TNI

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  • TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Dual function’ and ‘reform’ have once again become the hot military buzzwords of late after Indonesian Military (TNI) Commander ACM Hadi Tjahjanto revealed his plan to create jobs for senior military officers including in the civilian and ministerial institutions with a view to channeling hundreds of middle and high-ranking officers who do not have positions or, to simply put, are idle. 

    Since the TNI law came in effect 15 years ago, placement of active generals was restricted only in 10 state institutions, namely, the political, legal and security affairs coordinating ministry, the defense ministry, the national resilience institute, the national defense council, the national search and rescue agency, the national narcotics agency and the supreme court. The law also removed the armed forces’ dual function system adopted by the New Order regime which wanted the armed forces to have a sociopolitical role next to the national defense duty. During Suharto’s rule, generals occupied civilian posts in almost all institutions, being anything from governors, regents, ambassadors to bosses at state-owned enterprises.

    Retired Lt. Gen. Agus Widjojo—now the governor of the National Resilience Institute (Lemhannas)—is one of the officers who spearheaded that change. He with other middle-ranking army officers—Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Agus Wirahadikusumah—drove reform initiatives in the armed forces in the wake of the New Order’s fall in 1998.  

    They called the military’s dual role as an illegitimate child. Agus later compiled a military reform concept called A New Paradigm for the Armed Forces, which, among others, aimed at relieving the military of its role in the political sphere. He was also the one who led the withdrawal of the military/police faction from the House of Representative (DPR) and the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR).

    “(The military) should not hold both mandates—to hold political power and to have the monopoly over weapons. When bullets deviate, no one can stop them,” Agus, 71, said. 

    In a special interview with Tempo reporter Reza Maulana and Angelina Anjar at his office last Friday, Agus vehemently opposed the idea of expanding active officers’ career and pointed out that no country, except those under military juntas, allows soldiers to hold civilian positions. “Where is its legitimacy?” he questioned. According to him, the hordes of idle officers are the result of the military’s weak organizational management, from the mismatch between recruitment and personnel need to the misunderstood paradigm of lichting or graduate batches.

    TNI Commander ACM Hadi Tjahjanto plans to amend the armed forces law so that active officers can take up civilian positions. What is your view?

    I think he overstepped his role. He should have first talked to the defense minister who would then convey the message to the president for decision. The TNI does not have the authority in policymaking.

    They don’t have the authority to decide what they can do although they may believe that they know the best way to safeguard the country. TNI commander can’t make such a statement to the public. It’s fine if he does so within the TNI. By touching upon the subject of civilian positions, he went beyond his authority.

    Could the career expansion revive the dual function system of the military?

    In principle, which country gives civilian positions to soldiers? Where is its legitimacy? In a democratic state, legitimacy is given by the people. In a kingdom, it is presumably given by God. Only in the military state, they can do that. So, that (the expansion) is not allowed.

    The idea is to ease the number of officers without positions...

    Even if indeed it has become a pressing issue, the decision still must come from the president. That’s a presidential prerogative that only DPR has the control over. It should be remembered though that even this prerogative power must still be based on a theoretical framework. For the past few years, soldiers have been tasked with opening new paddy fields and it turned out they made many mistakes as they were not prepared with relevant skills. Soldiers are not supermen who can be assigned anywhere.

    Do you doubt their abilities to perform in the civilian arena?

    Civilian positions have appropriate civil servants trained for relevant jobs. Like cadets are trained by the military academy. We also have the police academy with its own professionalism. We all have our own

    specialized skills. We have to consider this if we want to progress. We can’t just pick up ad hoc initiatives like emergency situations in the past appointing everyone in any post at will. We will not achieve progress this way.

    Why are there so many surplus generals?

    There is only one issue, that is, the noncompliance with the personnel management rules. Military organizations everywhere adopt a pyramid hierarchical structure where the higher the level is, the fewer the positions are. It requires a plan from early on to determine the number of personnel needed for the existing structure. The first source of recruitment is the academy. It produces officers who are to be employed long term. Second is non-commissioned officers. We do need to accommodate officers from this group but because they begin their carrier at the non-commissioned level, it was time for them to retire by the time they reach the mid-level.  So, not everyone needs to wait to get to the top. It is a contextual recruitment. There were massive recruitments during the period 1962-1963, due to military confrontations with Malaysia and the seizing of West Papua in Trikora and Dwikora operations.

    The number shrunk afterward as the need declined.

    How do you manage security threats with fewer soldiers?

    That’s why a reserve component is important. The public is trained to be deployed when the need arises. It is called strengthening the sleeping army.

    Mandatory military service?

    It is used to be known as mandatory military service but now it’s called ‘a reserve component’ because it is voluntary in nature. Mandatory service is enforced in countries facing threats such as South Korea which feels threatened by North Korea but in other countries like Australia, it is a voluntary service. Nobody can be forced to take up arms even in the name of defending his country. The element of defending the state in the domain of the defense ministry is only 20percent which is covered in the development of initial capabilities. The rest is instilled in school, for example via boy scout programs.

    Read the full interview in Tempo English Magazine