Abri to redefine political role, says Wiranto

INDONESIA IN TRANSITION

The military will no longer seek to be an independent actor on the political stage. It will also place less emphasis on its security-minded approach.

INDONESIAN armed forces (Abri) chief General Wiranto yesterday said that the military would redefine its political role in the country and place less emphasis on its “security approach”.

“There will be a new paradigm that will see Abri as part of the national system,” he told reporters.

“The old approach which focused on security is no longer relevant.”

His comments on the eve of the Indonesian armed forces’ 53rd anniversary took place against a background of mounting criticism of the military over alleged abuses in the past.

These included the kidnapping of student activists, its handling of the May riots and the shooting and killing of six students during a peaceful protest.

The military has also taken flak for its operations against rebels in Aceh, Irian Jaya and East Timor, where troops allegedly carried out many atrocities.

Military sources here said that the “security approach”, which allowed Abri to use force against state opponents, was clearly the cause of such problems.

A three-star army general told The Straits Times that the military was forced to rethink its approach given that its legitimacy was at its lowest ebb in 30 years.

“Gen Wiranto’s statement is actually a reaction to all the public criticism we are facing,” he said.

“We cannot operate as an independent actor on the political stage and have to work with others on a level playing field.

“We are part of the national system and not separate from it. We don’t necessarily have to be in front all the time to influence developments in the country.”

One controversial area and a source of civilian gripe, he noted, was the “divine right” of Abri officers to hold key civilian appointments in the bureaucracy and ministries.

Gen Wiranto said that Abri personnel in future would be appointed to such positions only if they are capable.

This would be done in an “open and transparent manner”.

While the military chief signalled future changes in Abri’s political role, he was quick to point out that the military was still vital for the country.

He said the armed forces had brought stability and maintained national unity in Indonesia for more than 50 years, even more so now, given the uncertain political and economic climate.

“Is it true that in the last 53 years, Abri’s actions have been detrimental to society?” he asked.

“We have kept this nation together. We are now enjoying the fruits of the efforts of soldiers who died for this country.

“Can we easily forget what they have done for us?”

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