Neutrality, Professionalism and Solidarity of the TNI Ahead of the 2019 General Election

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Number: 08/SP/IMPARSIAL/X/2018

On October 5th, 2018, the Indonesian National Army (TNI) will commemorate its 73rd Birthday. Regarding this momentum, Imparsial would like to first convey congratulations and at the same time the greatest appreciation to all TNI soldiers for their role so far in maintaining national defense, with great hope that the TNI in the future will be stronger, more professional and modern.

When the TNI celebrates the 73rd anniversary of the TNI, Indonesia will soon face a general election process. In that context, in the midst of holding simultaneous legislative and presidential elections in April 2019, the neutrality of the TNI as a state defense actor is important to maintain. Efforts to ensure the neutrality of the TNI in electoral politics is a must and at the same time a key element of the ongoing democratic, fair and just, safe and peaceful electoral political process.

As a tool of state defense, the TNI cannot and should not be used as an instrument of electoral political victory whose impact will not only erode their professionalism, but also harm democracy and threaten the dynamics of electoral implementation. Moreover, TNI Law No. 34 of 2004 (Article 39) stipulates that TNI soldiers are prohibited from practicing politics.

The involvement of a number of retired generals in the political dynamics of the presidential election, both as administrators of political parties and the presidential candidate's success team, must ensure that the TNI institutions will not be drawn into electoral political contestations. As retired officers, they have become civilians and of course have the right to participate in politics. However, it is wrong and wrong if the involvement is carried out by politicizing or attracting TNI institutions, such as using influence, proximity or other forms of politicization to achieve the goals of political contestation. The statement by the TNI Commander Marshal TNI Hadi Tjahjanto who conveyed and ordered the TNI to be neutral in the election was a good first step in maintaining the neutrality of the TNI.

In dealing with various threats and various issues that are developing, of course TNI professionalism in identifying threats is needed. Regarding the issue of communism that is currently developing, for example, neither the military nor the public need to worry. Communism is not a real threat to Indonesia today. Indeed, after the end of the cold war, communism is no longer a frightening ideology and threatens countries in the world. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, most of the satellite countries of the Soviet Union changed their ideology and political system from communism to democracy. After the 1990s, the wave of democratization in many countries actually occurred in most countries in the world which changed their political systems from authoritarian, communist to democratic political systems.

In Indonesia, Communism is also not a real threat. Currently, there are no political parties in Indonesia participating in the 2019 elections that carry the ideology of communism in their party's basic rules. Even today, the prohibition of communism which is based on the MPR decree is still in effect. So how can communism be considered a real threat today if its organization alone is unclear and banned?

The issue of communism that is currently developing is actually only a political issue. The politicization of the issue of communism has only become a political commodity to fight for power ahead of the 2019 general election. The politicization of the issue of communism also occurred in the 2014 general election. The rolling out of the issue of communism also has an impact on the delay in efforts to resolve cases of human rights violations.

The involvement of the TNI in responding to non-traditional security threats such as in dealing with natural disasters in Donggala and Palu is a positive thing. In the midst of limited civilian capacity and an emergency situation, the involvement of the TNI is indeed possible as part of a military operation other than war. However, it would be better if the President now made a presidential decree regarding the involvement of the military in handling natural disasters in Central Sulawesi as a legal basis for determining how long the military involvement would be carried out, the purpose of the involvement, the military power used and the required budget support. This is not only limited to complying with the provisions of the TNI Law No. 34/2004 (Article 7 paragraph 2 and paragraph 3) but also as operational clarity in carrying out military operations tasks other than war in handling natural disasters, so that operations can run effectively and efficiently. .

Although non-traditional security threats are growing, Indonesia is actually still facing the possibility of traditional security threats, such as the South China Sea conflict. Therefore, military capacity still needs to be placed in its main task and function, namely to deal with war. The military is recruited, educated, trained and armed with its main function being to deal with possible military threats from other countries. The purpose of military existence in various worlds is to fight the enemy in war. This is the raison d'être or the main principle of the military role.

To carry out its function as a means of national defense, the state needs to build a more modern modernization of defense equipment. Increasing Indonesia's weapons capacity needs to be done gradually and continuously. Here, transparency and accountability for the modernization of defense equipment becomes important. On the other hand, military professionalism also needs to be supported by improving the welfare of the soldiers themselves.

Imparsial assesses that the commemoration of the TNI's anniversary is also important to remember and evaluate the dynamics of the TNI reform agenda. It is acknowledged that TNI reform since 1998 has produced a number of positive achievements. However, the dynamics of reform still leaves a number of unfinished agendas. The implementation of the remaining agendas is not only important to encourage the TNI to be strong and professional, but also to respect the democratic state order and human rights. One of the important agendas in TNI reform is reforming the military justice system through amendments to Law no. 31/1997. In addition, an evaluation of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the TNI and government agencies, both ministries and state-owned companies that are not well targeted, needs to be carried out. So far, there have been at least 40 MoUs.

In addition, the challenges of the TNI in the future are related to internal bureaucratic reform and TNI regeneration (transfers, promotions, rotations, transparency and accountability) as homework that needs to be done. In the near future, the process of changing the Army Chief of Staff (KSAD) will occur. The President and Commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces certainly need to think about replacing the Army Chief of Staff that can support the strengthening of the professionalism of the TNI AD, in which it is necessary to consider aspects of competence, professionalism, track record, solidity and respect for human rights and democratic values. Political interests that are included in the process of replacing the Army Chief of Staff should be avoided to ensure the solidity and professionalism of the TNI itself. From a human rights perspective, the President and the Commander of the Indonesian National Armed Forces certainly need to pay attention to the track record of the future KSAD candidates who are completely free from human rights violations.

Celebrate the 73rd Anniversary of TNI, may the TNI become more modern, professional and prosperous.

Jakarta, October 4th, 2018

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