Key position in Abri scrapped in line with reform

INDONESIA IN TRANSITION

JAKARTA – The Indonesian military has abolished a key position in its structure that analysts said could effectively reduce its powerful role in domestic politics.

Armed forces (Abri) chief General Wiranto told reporters late on Monday night that the socio-political post held by Lieutenant-General Bambang Yudhoyono would be abolished because “based on our new paradigm it is no longer relevant currently and in the future in line with the duties, functions and role of the armed forces”.

He said Lt-Gen Bambang, 50, would now hold the newly created post of Chief of Territorial Affairs and would be assisted by two deputies.

Lt-Gen Bambang said on Monday that the decision to abolish the long-established position was significant because it indicated that Abri was “serious about reform and keeping in line with changed circumstances and people’s aspirations”.

The military’s doctrine of dwifungsi or dual function allowed it to extend total control over all government agencies and instruments of state.

Abri is represented at every level of society – down to villages – in all of Indonesia’s 27 provinces, creating a de facto shadow government.

With the removal of the socio-political post, analysts and military insiders said that such pervasive control would slip gradually.

A two-star army general said that “it is not difficult to imagine” if in the next five years such positions are also abolished at regional command level.

The secretary-general of the Muslim-based United Development Party (PPP) cautioned, however, that such changes could just be “all form and no substance”.

“We have to wait and see whether this will result in qualitative changes in practice,” Mr Tosari Widjaya said.

Indeed diplomats and observers argue that with Lt-Gen Bambang holding the new post, it would appear that his mandate to “interfere” in regional problems would be even greater given the broad scope of the term “territorial affairs”.

But Abri sources maintained that the military was genuine in its efforts to disengage from the system.

Gen Wiranto lent credence to that when he also announced on Monday that no active Abri personnel could expect to hold positions in the bureaucracy.

He said Abri officers had to resign from the military and be elected by the people if they wanted to become MPs or serve in positions within the bureaucracy.

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