Abri concedes it was tool of Suharto

INDONESIA IN TRANSITION

It vows to play a smaller part in daily Indonesian politics, but will not give up its security and socio-political roles.

THE Indonesian Armed Forces (Abri), in its first-ever public acknowledgement, has conceded that it was used as a political tool by former President Suharto to further his political and other interests when he was in power.

In a document titled Abri In The 21st Century, released on the occasion of its 53rd anniversary on Monday, the military said it had “exceeded its dual-function role” during the 32 years when Mr Suharto was leader of the nation.

It has now vowed to play a smaller role in daily politics, but underlined that it had no plans to give up its “dwifungsi” or dual-function doctrine, which was made into law in 1982 and under which the military has both a security and socio-political role.

“During President Suharto’s era, Abri was allowed to play an unfettered role because Suharto’s political format was to use Abri’s socio-political role for his own interests,” the document said.

The military added that it had been difficult for Abri to remain above the state’s interests because it was directly under Mr Suharto who, as President, was also its Supreme Commander.

Abri’s socio-political role, in particular, enabled it to appoint unelected representatives to Parliament and to top jobs in the bureaucracy. It also allowed the military to exert control over government agencies and other instruments of state.

The army, by means of its territorial structure, is represented today at every level of society – even down to the villages – in all of Indonesia’s 27 provinces.

Many civilian intellectuals have long resented this, arguing that it gave the military a “free hand” to conduct numerous excesses by interfering in politics at the President’s behest.

Abri has used force to put down opponents of former President Suharto and his government. There have been revelations of human-rights abuses – such as kidnapping of student activists and atrocities in Aceh, East Timor and Irian Jaya.

But the 28-page document, signed by Abri chief General Wiranto, said the military had no plans to give up “dwifungsi”.

“Abri cannot be cut off from politics,” it said.

“There are no armed forces in the world that do not play a political role. All of them play a political role in different forms, even in liberal democratic countries.”

In arguing that Abri had a continued role to play, it said that in all developing countries, the military was “an agent of development and an agent of modernisation”.

But Abri did concede that it would now play a smaller role in politics, particularly in the appointment of senior officers to the bureaucracy and ministries.

Gen Wiranto said over the weekend that the process for holding such jobs would now be more “open and transparent” and that the military would discard the old security-driven paradigm it often resorted to, in the use of force, to achieve goals.

President B. J. Habibie told military leaders on Monday that they should not be transfixed by “past traumas” and should move ahead to reform Abri.

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