The forces within the forces

STATUS QUO GENERALS:

THE biggest opponents of the rebel reformers are officers closely associated with the New Order regime.

A few of them had served under Suharto as his adjutant or in the elite presidential security guard.

The source of power for this faction lies not so much within the military establishment as in the hands of ex-military strongman Wiranto and, to a lesser extent, other retired generals like Feisal Tandjung.

Indeed, there is a spectrum of continuity between serving officers and those who have left the service, given that they all have a stake in preserving their political and economic interests.

Most of the active officers in this group graduated from the military academy between 1967 and 1970. They rose on the coattails of General Wiranto when he was TNI chief and later Coordinating Minister for Politics and Security.

Making up 20-30 per cent of the TNI, they include stalwarts like Gen Subagyo, Lt-Gen Djadja Suparman, Maj-Gen Suaidi Marasabessy, Maj-Gen Sudi Silalahi and Maj-Gen Sudradjat.

Army chief Tyasno Sudarto can be considered to be part of this faction more because of his ideological links to Suharto than loyalty to Gen Wiranto. He dumped the four-star general in last year’s presidential election and for a brief period mixed with the powerful Lt-Gen Agus Wirahadikusumah and company before falling out of favour with them.

Gen Wiranto has also managed to secure the allegiance of officers who at one time were loyal to his arch rival and Suharto’s son-in-law, Prabowo Subianto.

Among them are Lt-Gen Fachrul Razi, Maj-Gen Syafrie Syamsudin, ex-intelligence chief Zacky Anwar, who had a hand in thebloody East Timor saga last year, and several officers heading directorates in TNI’s intelligence agency (BAIS).

All these generals have been sidelined in the current political constellation as part of an offensive by the President to weed out Wiranto elements from key positions.

But intelligence sources suggest that Gen Wiranto continues to cast a strong shadow over Indonesia. He still has close links with many of the 17 regional commanders in the country.

His residual power has resulted in what analysts describe as a “dual command structure” in the military – the formal one and a de facto regime under his control.

Says a senior government official: “He has put in place effectively a patronage system oiled by the huge financial resources he and the other generals had amassed over the years under Suharto.

“There are divided loyalties out in the field. It is very difficult for the TNI HQ to pass an order and be confident it will be carried out. Wiranto and his generals are very much feared.”

Observers believe that much of the violence in Indonesia today is a result of the activities of officers using proxies in the
form of radical Islamic groups and rogue military elements.

The local media has identified several hardliners believed to be sponsoring militia and criminal activity in the Maluku islands and West Timor and also attempting to destabilise the government through covert operations.

Besides continuing to be linked to Golkar, the political vehicle of the Suharto regime, many still have informal ties with several radical Islamic groups in Indonesia such as Kisdi and the Front for Defending Islam (FPI).

No status quo general will admit he is anti-reform. The line they adopt is that they are very much in favour of reform. But it has to be a reform process that is slow and gradual.

This attitude is very much in sync with Gen Wiranto’s world view of stability, hierarchy and harmony and the fundamental Javanese principle of alon alon asal kelakon (slow but sure).

A three-star general tells the Sunday Review in an interview: “Reform in this country has to proceed gradually. Otherwise, there might be a collapse of law and order and the military will have to intervene to restore order.”

The generals believe that the military should leave Parliament, but only a decade from now when they feel the civilian politicians might be ready to make decisions for the country.

They maintain, however, that the TNI should remain in the national assembly (MPR), the highest legislative body in Indonesia.

MAINSTREAM OFFICERS:

THE majority of the officer corps, perhaps 60 to 70 per cent, fall into this category – they are uncommitted, uninterested or perhaps not sure where they should be.

Many no doubt are fence sitters. Like their peers in the other factions, they have shared economic interests that they will not want to give up. These officers can be subdivided further into two groups.

* The first is considered to be more “professional” in orientation. Officers that belong in this category are field generals with substantial experience in command appointments. They include Lt-Gen Endriartono Sutarto, Lt-Gen Ryamizard R.C., Lt-Gen Djamari Chaniago and Maj-Gen Kiki Syahnakri.

It is this group, that the rebel reformers particularly wish to appeal to because a major reformist plank is professionalism.
* The other sub-group includes the army’s arguably leading intellectuals: Lt-Gen Agus Widjoyo and the retired Bambang Yudhoyono, chief security minister.

These two men occupy an uncertain middle ground between the radical reformers and conservative generals. They have at times seen it in their interests to present themselves as friends of the reformist group or the conservatives.

Oozing diplomatic charm, these clever executive-suited generals are adept at projecting nationalist causes. They are also effective as bridge builders or political brokers with the civilian elite.

The US-trained Widjoyo is being used now by Gen Wiranto to cultivate Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri, a development which could bode well for his career.

Gen Bambang, on the other hand, has great value to the palace because of his ability to leverage between the hardliners and the whistle blowers in the army and his intellectual bent on political and security matters.

His fortunes have changed dramatically after his brief spell taking charge of the Mines and Energy portfolio, having lost outearlier in the battle for the army chief’s post.

He is being courted by Mr Abdurrahman’s Nation Awakening Party (PKB), with some seeing him as a possible presidential candidate in 2004.

THERE are two phases to the President’s ties with the military.

The first was a contested relationship in the first four months of his leadership, with Mr Abdurrahman asserting dominance over his then chief security minister Wiranto and then with the promotion of Lt-Gen Wirahadikusumah as Kostrad chief. He also made the TNI uncomfortable with his policies on Aceh and Maluku and his stand on human rights.

The generals found themselves forced increasingly into a corner with the constant threat of being prosecuted over the brutalities in East Timor, for example.

But at the same time, there was a general unease throughout the TNI with the President’s unpredictability.

In the second phase that continues to evolve, the relationship has become one of groping towards some kind of accommodation.

It came close, if only for a while, to the relationship TNI had enjoyed under former President B.J. Habibie, in which there was relative space to pursue core interests without interfering in each other’s territory.

The dismissal of the much disliked Lt-Gen Wirahadikusumah in July this year and indications of a much more hands-off approach to TNI appointments suggested that the President was beginning to step back from his confrontational stance. The decision to allow the TNI to hold 38 seats in Parliament five years longer until 2009 also suggested some sort of crab-like rapprochement was taking place between both parties.

Of course, the strategic context of this arrangement was the threat of impeachment hovering over Mr Abdurrahman during the national assembly session in August.

He had to make deals to survive.

With the impeachment threat somewhat receding now, there are signs that he is reverting to his earlier pattern.

COUNTER PUNCH FROM THE PRESIDENT

THE President’s volte-face takes place against the background of spasms of violence in Aceh, Maluku, West Timor and a series of explosions in Jakarta.

There are suggestions that rogue military elements are behind them with support from some status quo generals.

The bombing of the Jakarta Stock Exchange saw him striking back against the TNI. Two top generals were sacked in the space of three days, signalling to the military that he was prepared to flex his muscles when push came to shove.

Says a presidential aide: “He is not going to sit back and take all the punches without throwing punches back against his enemies.”

Paradoxically, the bombings and violence in the country serve the President by giving him greater legitimacy to act against the generals.

He does not have to scramble for an excuse to speed up the process of throwing the guilty ones into the den of an international human rights tribunal.

It is probably difficult to predict how the face-off will end.

Mr Abdurrahman could choose to undermine his military opposition by resorting to Suharto-style attrition warfare by playing off one faction against another rather than by direct confrontation.

The rivalries in the armed forces are certainly fertile ground for the shrewd politician.

The central issue in the army now is the impending military reshuffle.

The three factions are obviously jockeying for the key posts, in particular the army chief’s post, with speculation rife that the President is going to replace the incumbent, Gen Tyasno.

The President’s game plan is to keep the generals guessing.

He is likely to shuffle the deck and play “musical chairs” to keep opponents at bay and forestall the development of a countervailing power centre.

There are several candidates for the army commander’s post: Lt-Gen Widjoyo, Lt-Gen Endrartono Sutarto, Lt-Gen Djamari Chaniago, Lt-Gen Djadja and Lt-Gen Wirahadikusumah.

Mr Abdurrahman’s preference is for Lt-Gen Wirahadikusumah, given the pressures he is facing from non-governmental outfits and the international community to put in place radical reformers in the TNI.

He is known to have met the three-star general on at least two occasions this month to discuss with him his future in the army.

This is despite the counter argument that Lt-Gen Wirahadikusumah is a bad choice as it is likely to ruffle even more feathers in the military if he returns to a key post.

It is also difficult for the President because he will have to factor in the preferences of Ms Megawati, whose own links with the TNI appear to be getting stronger.

Sources say that General Wiranto, having an eye out for his own political role in 2004, had tried unsuccessfully to meet thePDI-P chief on six occasions before she finally relented on his seventh try.

In the earlier attempts, he used Lt-Gen Widjoyo, whose father-in-law was a Partai Nasional Indonesia (PNI) member during the Sukarno era, to warm up politically to Ms Megawati, the daughter of Indonesia’s founding father.

Despite her democratic credentials, the Vice-President does not have fundamental objections to a substantial military role in national life.

She seems inclined to giving Lt-Gen Widjoyo the job of leading the army. But that does not square with the President’s preference.

The armed forces can in theory pursue effectively a political course of action to undermine the government if there is consensus among a core group of five generals in the military high command: the TNI chief, the army commander, and the heads of Kostrad, the Special Forces and the Jakarta Military Command.

The constellation of forces in the TNI suggests that this is unlikely among the officers occupying these positions because of factional differences.

But the army’s record over the last three years indicates that there is no real need for unanimity of views among the military elite to wreak havoc in Indonesia.

IN THE AFTERMATH, WITHER TNI?

THE presence of a de facto command structure led by army hardliners and intelligence officers is enough to let the genie of violence out of the bottle.

With long experience in running black operations in East Timor, they have extensive links to the criminal underworld. One prominent feature of mass violence in Indonesia in the last decade is the role played by the preman – thugs and hooligans – many of whom were trained by the military in East Timor.

After their stint in the former Portuguese colony, an increasing number of these preman were brought to Java by their military handlers.

The most acute manifestation of this was the spiralling violence during the first half of 1998 that culminated in Suharto’s resignation. Orchestrated mob violence and mysterious ninja murders stamped their bloody prints on this chapter of Indonesia’s history.

There is evidence to suggest that a similar pattern is taking place in Indonesia today. Militia violence in West Timor and Maluku and the bloody activities of premans in different parts of the archipelago bear the prints of military involvement in destabilising the government.

This is what the civilian administration fear the most. But it is something other senior officers tasked with keeping order have no control over, given the malfunctioning of the command chain.

As a result, the influence of some conservative generals is still pervasive even if they do not hold the formal reigns of power.

They are helped by TNI’s considerable resources. These include the army’s relatively intact territorial structure, significant control over domestic political intelligence and access to funds not subject to scrutiny.

It is this structural power that will keep the TNI influential in the short term even if there has been a significant decline in the military’s clout with Suharto’s fall.

The approach for the next five years at least is likely to be tactical and defensive to keep their influence in the centre of
government.

Helped by the transitional nature of civilian leadership, and the threats to law and order, the TNI will continue to have a substantial political influence.

It is instructive that the generals managed to halt their slide by getting to stay in the MPR for a while yet.

In the medium-term, there is a stronger likelihood that when the military becomes more united and power revolves around the professional mainstream officers, there would be serious thought on taking their ties with the civilian elite a step further.

This is likely to be more rhetoric than reality, however, because most of the generals will continue having vested interests -especially business – in the system to want any substantial changes to it.

The majors and colonels today who will be filling the key positions a decade from now will want to enjoy the privileges theirpredecessors enjoyed even if they are yearning to be more professional in orientation.

The Indonesian military in the end is not a war-fighting machine. It is a business enterprise.

But if history is a linear progression, the mason culture of being a secret society with special handshakes will disappear in time.

Twenty years from now, the TNI will be on a steep slide. Their dual function doctrine, which paradoxically has divided generals politically but united them over economic interests, will dissipate in the face of civil society and the growth of a much larger middle class in Indonesia.

The “political resources” they enjoy now will be declining assets. The challenge then will be to find a new raison d’etre for its existence. That could be to develop the military technologically into a modern defence force.

This may be a difficult enterprise, given that the TNI is likely to be even more backward compared to the military in other countries in terms of hardware, command and control, doctrine training and human resource development.

The military will eventually go back to the barracks. But the process will be slow and painful.

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