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The Interpreter: Response to “TNI’s New Generation” by Edmund McWilliams

March 8, 2013

March 8, 2013

The Interpreter
Lowy Institute for International Policy

Edmund McWilliams, a retired US Foreign Service Officer, writes:

Gary Hogan’s March 6 article, A promising New Generation of TNI
leaders, presents a weak case for its essential contention that new
leaders of the Indonesian military (TNI) are ‘more sophisticated,
worldly and conscious of the wider implications of military actions
for Indonesia’s image and reputation.’

The central point that Hogan misses is that, notwithstanding the new
blood purportedly surging into the upper ranks of the TNI, that
organisation remains unaccountable before Indonesian courts for the
sometimes barbarous performance of its officers and enlisted men. When
rare public scrutiny compels a degree of accountability, those
convicted of human rights abuse invariably are given light
punishments.

Moreover, the TNI as an institution continues to operate outside of
civilian control.

Despite parliamentary calls for fundamental reforms extending back
over a decade, the TNI continues to rely heavily on sources of revenue
not under the control of the civilian budgetary process. TNI leaders
depend on a significant flow of funds from legal and illegal
businesses, extortion of domestic and foreign corporations and other
revenues not controlled by any civilian budgetary process.

Mr Hogan’s contention that some of the rising stars of the ‘new’ TNI
constellation are more ‘worldly’ by virtue of their training in the US
and other foreign countries is also essentially bogus. Some of the
TNI’s most infamous leaders, including Lt General Prabowo, benefited
from extensive foreign training. This foreign contact failed to render
the officers involved any more sensitive to human rights concerns or
to the essential democratic order of a military subordinate to
civilian control.

Absent serious reform of the TNI, Indonesian democracy will remain
hostage to a rogue military and the whims of the elite officer ranks
which control it.

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