Sam in Indonesia: Indonesian Military’s Stalled Reform


Categorie: Asia, Sam Abrams, Sam in Indonesia |
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Indonesian army training. U.S. Army photo.


The Indonesian military has gone through range of reforms since the fall of President Suharto. Twelve years on, however, observers agree that momentum for reform has decreased significantly, and politicians have been unable and unwilling to address remaining issues.

While initial reforms like the termination of dwi fungsi (or “dual function,” the doctrine that permitted the military’s participation in the state), and the separation of the police from the military were a product of military policy, legal reforms — which are, importantly, mandated by civil authorities — have been less concrete. Laws mandating the divorce of the military from its businesses, for example, have allowed the military to maintain the majority of its cooperatives and foundations. Throughout, the military has remained an important constituency for civilian politicians. Lieutenant General Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, for example, played an important role in resisting reform efforts and was recently made the deputy at the Ministry of Defense.

Reform in other sectors like the police and judiciary is a priority for many now, and may actually be a prerequisite for further military reform, since the military can point to its relative progress and claim it is being unfairly targeted. President SBY has made halting progress on these fronts though.

With this in mind, one retired general posed an interesting question to me: what happens if in the next presidential elections in 2014, a conservative civilian calls for greater military involvement in politics to break political gridlock?

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