Military purpose, influence in Indonesia

Juwono Sudarsono, Jakarta

The Indonesian Defense Force was established from a myriad group of student brigades, guerrilla militias and irregulars representing ethnic, religious and provincial identities preceding proclamation of Indonesian independence in Aug. 1945.

These guerrilla forces and student brigades were imbued with the guiding ethos that defined latter-day Indonesian defense policy: “Total people’s warfare”, and later on, “total defense and security”.

All services of the Indonesian Military (TNI) are at once a fighting force (tentara kejuangan), a people’s force (tentara rakyat), a national force (tentara nasional) and a professional force (tentara profesional). Professionalism is deliberately subsumed under the preceding three guiding elements. Every single Indonesian soldier, sailor, airman and marine is honor-bound to think and act first and foremost as an Indonesian, to be “first in war, first in peace and first in emergency response”.

My Indonesian Army colleagues who went through their formative years at the National Military Academy in Magelang continue this important political commitment to serve as first and foremost as Indonesians. Like their colleagues who graduated from the Naval Academy in Surabaya and from the Air Force Academy in Yogyakarta they have sworn to defend the tenets of our national ideology — Pancasila.

Defending Pancasila is an indispensable basis of our sense of national identity as well as a reinforcement of our sense of national purpose. But it has its practical applications as well, not least in two critical areas in contemporary Indonesia, which the TNI is currently engaged in.

First, the TNI is committed to graduated political democratization to support governance and capacity building. At all levels of government, the role of the Indonesian soldier has shifted from leading and dominating to one presenting itself more in support of the four pillars of democratic government and the rule of law: The police, the prosecutor’s office, the court system and civil society.

Every regent and district officer in our 380 second tiers of governance recognizes the need to emulate the Indonesian soldier’s code of ethics. Every Indonesian remains proud of one’s ethnic, provincial or religious origin. But once a person is enlisted or commissioned into the profession of arms, the national interest transcends the interests of one’s particular primordial proclivities.

Thus, Javanese, Sundanese, Sumatranese or Kalimantan junior officers hailing from a particular place of birth are expected to serve in at least four or five different areas of command throughout eastern, central and western Indonesia before he receives his first star. Likewise, provincial, district and sub-district bureaucracies are now expected to put in place similar tour-of-duty practices. It is all-important for capacity building and for concrete “ground-level democratization”.

Second, the Indonesian military is committed to help accelerate sustainable economic growth. Not just growth with equity, but more critically growth through equity. Only robust underpinnings of social and economic growth at the lowest level can secure political democratization over the medium and long term.

Measured military presence and security governance at each local cultural context are key elements of measured transformation in the political and economic realms. Security governance defines the success rate of governmental delivery in providing basic economic needs and essential services.

Indonesia’s political and economical national transformation requires that the military commit itself to enabling growth through equity. Our society cannot realize sustained growth without adequate provisions which deliver basic human needs (potable water, electricity, affordable public housing, primary health care and quality education) to the 35 million Indonesians who live on less than US$2 a day.

We are in a constant process of nation-building and nation-replenishing. From Aceh to Papua, soldiers teach arithmetic, help rebuild villages, devise irrigation systems and provide primary health care. Each deed reinforces the local’s sense of actively partaking in replenishing a more confident and vibrant Indonesian nation.

Security governance applying “soft power presence” is imperative. Religious, cultural, ethnic and provincial diversity imply that levels of thresholds of tolerance regarding what constitutes equity and fairness can be both tenuous and fickle at the ground level.

Our affirmation of national state identity is not based on a single religion. Islam in Indonesia co-exists and is enriched by day-to-day interaction with the precepts, rituals and symbols of other faiths: Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Neither is it based on a single ethnic-cultural stream such as the Malay heritage, though large areas of western Indonesia find affinity with Malay culture. There are more Melanesians in eastern Indonesia than in all of Melanesia.

Military presence and security governance is linked to graduated social justice in order to narrow the vertical “rich-poor gap”, as well as Indonesia’s west-east divide where differentiated knowledge and skills’ opportunities may result in the rupturing of the nation’s sense of unity and cohesion.

Security governance provides that degree of political stability which facilitates efforts to quadruple our GDP per capita from currently US$2,000 to $8,000, and to quadruple the size of our middle class from 12 percent to 46 percent of the population.

In addressing domestic terrorism, interdicting terrorist financial networks, disrupting their organizational capacity and arresting suspected perpetrators must be conducted on the terms of Indonesian authorities, not on the insistence of foreign countries. Discreet and timely foreign security assistance rendered “on tap” are much more legitimate and enduring than assistance implemented through “on top” pressure.

Each generation of Indonesian military leaders is committed to “nation replenishing” and indeed “nation-recreating”. An Indonesian officer corps that is based on an outward-looking and self-confident nationalism in this globalized world can learn much from their colleagues represented in this distinguished gathering.

For reasons of history, culture, tradition and geography we may differ in the way we prepare for war. But in matters of human security, we must retain our universal humility.

The writer is the minister for defense of Indonesia. The above article is an excerpt of his presentation at the 32nd Pacific Armies Management Seminar (PAMS), in Jakarta on Monday.

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