TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The draft presidential regulation that would extend the powers of the Indonesian Military (TNI) is a dangerous step backwards. The document being discussed by the defense ministry and TNI headquarters clearly intends to restore the TNI's role in maintaining public order and security, which is now the job of the police.
If this proposal moves forward, it will be a betrayal of the reform movement. In 1998, the TNI's dual function as defender of the nation's sovereignty and holder of the authority to preserve order came to an end. Today, the military deals with threats to national sovereignty, while the police deal with disturbances and crimes in the civilian sphere.
It is highly regrettable that articles in the draft regulation to expand the authority of the TNI provide a legal basis for the TNI to be involved in non-military threats, such as operations to stop smuggling or to eradicate illegal drugs. Law No. 3/2002 on National Defense states that the TNI is the defense apparatus of the state. But articles 4, 5 and 6 in the draft presidential regulation proposing the TNI's new role, the military would no longer be simply the state's defense apparatus, it will also play a role in internal security.
The addition of the word "security" in the draft is vague and the meaning unclear. Most likely, the additional clause is intended to provide the TNI with the legitimacy to carry out additional non-police duties. It seeks to empower the military not just to deal with crimes such as smuggling or drug dealing, but also with managing demonstrations by students, laborers, farmers, just like in the past. During the New Order era, the TNI took part in resolving the Kedung Ombo Reservoir protests, the murder of labor activist Marsinah and the Badega Garut land case, using the 'rifle butt' approach.
The expansion of the military's role outside the combat arena would clearly be a step backward. Its functional role as the state's defense apparatus would be undermined, making it much less efficient than the armies of neighboring countries. The military's skills would be compromised by having to deal with the 'additional activities'.
Instead, the defense ministry should pay more attention to developing the professionalism of combat personnel and upgrading their equipment. The 'no day without training' program, in line with the slogan of Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu when he was Army chief of staff, should be a priority. The TNI could conduct training with friendly nations. Furthermore, military personnel need to study the 'wars of the future', which will no longer depend on human-based defense. The TNI's most important job is to realize the principle of si vis pacem, para bellum - to attain peace, be prepared for war.
Improvements to the professionalism of its personnel should be higher priority than, for example, the national defense program, recently launched by the defense ministry. Besides being open to interpretation as a militarization of civil society, the national defense program would reduce scarce available funds to fight poverty and unemployment or other social programs.
Surprisingly, how this anachronistic proposal went past all the usual hurdles to end up so effortlessly on President Joko Widodo's desk is a big question. Legally, the draft presidential regulation may be problematic because it contradicts Law No. 3/2002. Jokowi must not go ahead with this regulation to expand the TNI's authority. Indonesia must not go back to the era of Praetorian Rome, some 2,000 years back, when the army was the state's defense apparatus, its police force and ultimately, its political power. (*)