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Indonesia's Defence White Paper 2003 and the limited Capacity of Civilian in Security-Related Issues PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr. Anak Agung Banyu Perwita   
Thursday, 31 January 2008 19:50


The past few years have seen Indonesian politics undergoing rapid and dramatic changes since the fall of Soeharto in May 1998. Those changes have accordingly posed a tremendous challenge for the government to reform any aspects of national affairs. As a consequence, one of the pressing challenges for Indonesia is to reform its security affairs.

As in other Third World Countries, the Indonesian military is arguably the only institution that dominated the whole aspects of national life. The era of national reform is now pushing the military to conduct the security reform from its traditional focus on internal security threats to a focus on external defence. This change has been under way since the early 1990s when they started to change its doctrinal functions.

Among the themes that emerged in the security reform (SSR), particularly in the Third World Countries is the importance of civilian participation in controlling the military. More specifically, Security Sector Reform is primarily concerned with the establishment of appropriate structures for (democratic) civilian control. The other key elements of SSR, as Timothy Edmunds argued, are the process of civilianisation of security sector bureaucracies and the depoliticisation of the security sector . The arguments above clearly implies that the role of the civilians as part of "wider security family" is quite crucial in the development of democratic security forces and the process of SSR

This paper attempts to delineate the issues of civilian involvement in SSR. To be more specific, it attempts to answer why and how the civilian should be involved in the security related issues. Then, this paper utilizes the Indonesian Defence White Paper 2003 as the special reference in looking at the civilians' involvement in the security-related issues. The last part of this paper discusses the lessons that we can learn from the formulation of the Defence White Paper.

The Capacity of Civilian in Security-Related Issues: A Conceptual Perspective

Based on the literatures of national security studies, there are -at least-three approaches that can be used to look at on the manner in which (national) security policy is made. The first approach is 'the concentric circle approach'. This approach assumes that the top decision maker is at the centre of national security policy process. At the same time, the wider circles play less importance as the sources of security policy. As a result, the possibility for 'extra state-actors' (civilian, for example) to play a major role in policy formulation and policy oversight are very limited and minimal. On other words, it is exhibited the characteristic of a strong state in which it can dominate the society . The second approach, which is 'the elite versus participatory policymaking approach', is based on the view there id a basic dilemma of democracy in the policy process. (National) security policy is made by military elites, but the military elites in turn must develop support for such a policy in the broader civilian public. In other words, for (national) security policy to be successful in the long term, there must be significant degree of participation by the wider civilian public. As a result, this approach struggles to reconcile the expertise of the military elites and civilians with the demands of participatory democracy.

The last approach, 'the system-analysis approach' assumes that many different inputs from many different actors including civilians go into the policy process. This input, of course, creates political dynamics both within the public and policymaking process, which must reconcile different competing interests. In turn, the impact of policy should be measured by feedback, both in terms of policy effectiveness and how wider public perceives it.

All the above approaches indicate the degree of participation of civilians in the security policy process and at the same time, they also show different consequences of civilian involvement in the policy process. Further, in contrast to first approach, the second and the third approaches underline the need to reconstitute the capacity of the civilian to involve and to control the policy processes. This is mainly due to the fact that security policy is not a purely military nation. It is more a political category than a military one as a part of the state policies where the military component is only one of the elements/actors engaged. The arguments implies that an effective civilian control to the military require some basic preconditions . Firstly, there should be a clear constitution and legal framework for democratic control. As Fitz-Gerald argues that a comprehensive security reform is unlikely to be initiated without addressing constitutional and legal framework that enable a high degree of accountability and transparency of the armed forces .

Secondly, a significant role for parliament in oversight of the military. The scope of parliament's authority, of course, will be varied from one country to another. At least, the parliament should have three roles in controlling the military, such as political accountability and policy accountability. However, in terms of military professionalism, parliament should also play the role of operational accountability. This accountability concerns with the role of parliament in controlling the military in the aspects of the management of military operations, military budget and even monitoring the human right abuses in any military operation .

Thirdly, professional civilian control of the defence ministry which can capably direct and manage military activity. This capability, of course, includes sufficient transparency in policy making to facilitate public security of defence policy and its implementation. Lastly, the active involvement of society in redefining its relations with the military, including a national debate on security related issues.

From the perspective of SSR, the above preconditions underline the first and second generation of SSR simultaneously. The first SSR includes the establishment of appropriate institutional and legislation structures for democratic civilian control while the second SSR concerns with democratic procedures of oversight and transparency and the wider engagement of the civil society . In this context, the civilians should not only have more understanding and awareness on defence issues but they should also have a sufficient capability to control the implementation of defence policy.

Indonesia's Defence White Paper 2003: A case study

The government, through Department of Defence, has published on March 31, 2003 a defence white paper. The white paper, as some argued, was a clear attempt to put the brakes on the ongoing security reform within the Indonesian Military (TNI) . The paper, titled "Mempertahankan Tanah Air Memasuki Abad 21" (Defending the Land and Water at the Start of the 21st Century) was also a welcome attempt by the Department of Defence to become more transparent about its activity.

The major aims of the paper are twofold. Nationally, the white paper is important to inform the country about national defence and the need for its integrated implementation. While, internationally, it aims to inform the international community about Indonesia's defence policy. The paper has outlined the government's perception of threats to Indonesia and the strategies needed to deal with these threats.

In a press conference during the launching of the paper, Minister of Defence, Matori Abdul Djalil stated that the paper implies the readiness of the people defend the nation with all its mental and physical strength . This statement reflects an attempt to influence the people fully participate in the national defence. Still, the paper has invited strong criticism from the wider public since it had not been drawn up after a thorough public debate.

The obvious example of the above issue was the government's decision to buy Russia jetfighters. This decision had invited a rejection from the parliament since the government did not directly involve the Ministry of Defence in the process of arms acquisition. While the White paper clearly stated the Defence Minister/Minister has been an authority to make the policy of arms/weapons acquisition for the TNI . This situation, to a certain extent, shows the lack of understanding among military and civilian officials regarding powers and authority in defence issues. Further, it also indicates the lack of coordination and harmonization among the government agencies.

Even though national security is the concern of the whole public, the White Paper still reflects the domination of military views and interest on defence issues. As the Jakarta Post argued in its editorial, this comes as no surprise considering that although the Department of Defence may be led by a civilian, those running the show, including those who drafted the White Paper, come from the TNI .

Many civilians argued that this is still a serious weakness in Indonesia, particularly the lack of knowledge of military strategy and defence management of the civilians in the national security policymaking process. The other weaknesses of the civilians in this process were strategic and policy constraints which had limited the substantial role of the civil society in policymaking and controlling the policy. Despite of these constraints, the first thing that Indonesian civilians should have is more awareness of the defence knowledge and needs in order to be more involved in the debate on security related issues.

Further, the White Paper also still contained some controversial issues. The first most controversial issues is the need for TNI to play a leading role in maintaining domestic security along with the national police (Polri). This issue reflects that the government attempted to mix and even blur the distinction between defence and security.

This is quite obvious when government has to face regional conflicts, namely communal conflicts in some parts of Indonesia such as in Papua, for example. The government's decision to send more troops to boost military strength in military operation other than war (moot) in Papua has invited the people's suspicion toward the TNI. Past experience has shown that sending troops to communal conflict areas-despite the otherwise noble intention of bringing peace-had only created more problems .

The paper also, for example, stated that while Indonesia does not have any immediate military external threats, it does have no conventional threats ranging from terrorism, drug trafficking, separatist movement, illegal fishing, illicit human trafficking and so on which could ultimately jeopardize the national security.

The other controversial points of the paper is the TNI's need to maintain its presence among the people through its huge network of territorial commands. Yet we know that from the previous experience, particularly during the New Order regime, the presence of the territorial structural all the way down to the village level has created the impression of a heavily militarised nation. The other experiences of the military commands was that through these territorial system, TNI has continued to exercise its political influence, even though the concept of Dwifungsi (dual function) is legally no longer in politics. Ironically, the paper also seeks to put an end to the debate about TNI's current territorial system by stating that those calling for its abolition are denying the fact that TNI and the people are one and cannot be separated .

The above points, as some Indonesian civilian experts on military affairs argued, was counterproductive to one goals of reform, which is to demilitarise the nation as Indonesia march toward a strong civil society. Further, this point will also disrupt a healthy civil-military relation that required the premise that military should obey the civilian control . But as Major General (ret) Agus Widjoyo argued "empowering civilian is the adopted posture of (ABRI) TNI in the era of democratisation, but whether it reduce ABRI's role or not may depend on the quality of people's life" . The above statement can also be interpreted that the military still doubts the capabilities of civilians in understanding the security related issues.

Concluding remarks

Even though TNI is now experiencing internal reform, the above arguments shows that the published Defence White Paper is still the product of a political system in which the state (military) was stronger than the society. During the New Orde period, a national security policy issue was used as powerful instrument by which the state could mitigate the role of civil society. More important the making and the conduct of national security policy reflected the core values of the state, internal order and political stability.

The limited role and the low capacity of the wider (civilian) society were also shown in the policy making process of the White Paper. As has been argued above, it comes, as no surprise considering the lack of political will of the military, the civilian's lack of knowledge on security affairs, the lack of self confidence of the civilian politicians in speeding up TNI reforms with an objective to transforming it into a more professional military organizations and more importantly, the domination of the TNI military views and interests to security related issues as the legacy of the authoritarian regime of the New Orde.

However, the White Paper provides a rare glimpse into the thinking of the member of the society who is in charge of national security. The significant lesson that we could learn from this glimpse is quite disturbing for the pace of internal reform and for our march toward democracy and a strong civil society. This wider concept of security poses a significant challenge to the future of Indonesia's security policy which is not only a question of defending national territories, but it has also to reflect a number of different considerations such as the empowerment of civil society and the protection of civil (human) rights. Finally, in the security sector reform, we are now still closer to beginning than to an end, and while much difficult jobs remain to be done, considerable progress in TNI's internal reform in Indonesia has been little made.




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