dual function (Dwi fungsi) role of Armed Forces of the Republic of Indonesia (ABRI)
is well known if often misunderstood.This role is part of a Total People's Defence doctrine where the ABRI views itself as "preserving and
national resilience." That is to deter aggression by threat of
intransigent residence. It arose out of Indonesia turbulent struggle to
establish a nation. Nationalists faced external interference, along with
internal disunity, fractures within the military and vacillating political
leadership. Indonesia was also a very poor country, whose per capita GNP was
half that of India in 1967. (Although it has long since surpassed India). So
they could not afford adequate arms to defended their country by conventional
warfare. The ABRI responded by adopting a guardianship role, or a military
authoritarianism according some critics.
Social and Political concerns
Indonesian covers a large land and sea area,
with an ethically diverse population. Most of its large population live in small
towns and villages. It ranges from densely populated Java, to mountains and
small islands. The country includes seafaring communities who have traded with
world for many centuries, to Irian Jaya where first contact is within living
memory. It's armed forces has been one of the few nation wide institutions.
Current perceptions are that the most serious threat to Indonesia comes not from
internal revolt, but social unrest brought about by rapid economic change. This
includes urban crime, political activism and labour unrest.
The country has a very young population, with
an annual youth cohort is about 4.2 million, which is proportionately a third
more than Australia. All of whom require jobs, training or education. Young
people migrating to major cities such as Jakarta and Medan is seen as a major problem.
Many are seeking work and greater opportunities. Indonesia's the principal
social welfare policy is to encourage young people to remain in their rural
communities, so they have the support of their own families. There are a range
of programs to improve the living conditions of rural young people. The "Sanadoya"
youth movement includes small teams of trained young people working at village
level organising work camps, education programs and self-employment schemes.
There is strong emphasis on social and spiritual values in these programs.
Armed Forces of the Republic of Indonesia (ABRI)
At a national level military leaders have
formal role in government, including allotted seats in the parliament and
presidential electoral college (People's Consultative Congress). Military
leaders exert significant political power and often hold senior cabinet
positions. The military is involved in civil administration down to village
level. For example the Armed forces assistant for Communications has the dual
role of Director-General, post and telecommunications. And BABINSA (Village NCO)
who works with the chiefs of a cluster of villages.
They also have associations with many state
business enterprises and private companies. These business are believed to be a
significant source of extra-budgetary resources for the ABRI. Senior ABRI
leaders have long been required to master civilian skills such as economics and
management if they are to advance. They also pride themselves in constructive
engagement with intellectuals, who are invited to military institutes of higher
learning and with military officers attending civilian forums.
Sub District (KORAMIL) Garrisons
In towns throughout Indonesia there are
military garrisons. Many of which have only a few hundred soldiers. These small
garrisons comprise about two-thirds of the ABRI strength and have a number of
functions. In time of national emergency, they would provide a cadre for
guerilla force to resist any invader. They also provided an organised force to
help deal with natural disasters. Local garrisons receive training in
agricultural and engineering skills and only devote only a few days each month
to military training. This is partly because of their emphasis on
socio-political role. It was also because military training is expensive. The ABRI is not lavishly funded and local unit have low priorities. They have few
heavy weapons or communications equipment. Although there are conventionally organised
battalions at Territorial (Kodam) and Kostrad (Strategic Reserve) including
field artillery, cavalry and engineer units.
Commanders of local garrisons play a important
civic leadership role; advising the local authorities, and making available
their men for local development projects. They also help maintain public order
and monitor any social unrest. The Indonesian government operates a very centralised administration. Permission for even minor activities are often
refereed back to Jakarta. Military officers serve as government representatives
for a range of matters. Although this illustrates a significant obstacle to economic
development. Many of these functions should be delegated to local authorities.
The ARBI plays a key role in rural development
amongst young people. They works with community groups and help young people at
the local level with organising things like work camps, education programs and
self-employment schemes. It also supports a network of base centres and training
institutes to provide leadership and organisation for rural young people so that
they can better help their own community. This role will require greater
sophistication as communities have growing access to outside media like STAR TV.
Soldiers patrol their local area, visiting outlying areas under the 'ABRI MASUK
DESA' (ABRI entering the village) program. They are some of the few government
representative to visit remote areas. They promote agricultural improvement,
public health and such things as maintaining roads, repairing schools, and
organising local self-help projects. Eg, building mosques and community centres.
This is also considered to have a deterrent effect against any social agitation.
Corruption and Human Rights
Dwi fungsi has meant there are few constitution
controls on the ABRI. This has permitted abuses of their wide ranging powers.
Allegations of human rights abuses and corruption are often not satisfactorily
resolved. ABRI personnel have acted arbitrarily or have achieved financial gain
through the performance of their duties. There
have been repeated calls to ABRI personal to avoid conspicuous consumption and
to maintain the image of well respected freedom fighters who remain men of the
people. In recent years there have been moves to separate private and public
activities. There have also been the introduction of civil checks such as a
human rights commission.
The role of the ABRI is considerable different
from that common to the Australian Defence Force. This reflect a different
heritage and circumstance. Australia's military grew out of an auxiliary to the
professional British forces; Indonesia from disparate freedom fighters forging a
nation. There is little doubt that the ABRI will continue to be involved at all
levels of public affairs. However, it is questionable that the ABRI is capable
or appropriate of responding to newly emerging social problems. The ABRI will
have to leave its paternalistic attitudes and learn to operate in partnership
with civilian agencies and local communities. The maintenance of popular
confidence, particularly at the village level will be the ABRI's greatest
challenge in the near future.
Originally Published in Defender, Journal of the Australia Defence Association, Spring 1996
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