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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

WHAT ROLE FOR THE MILITARY?

ABRI: "We can conduct accelerated reforms"


A Matter of Force The military's involvement in civilian affairs comes under scrutiny

OFFICERS WHO GRADUATED with him from the military academy in 1973 still call LT.-GEN. SUSILO BAMBANG YUDHOYONO, 48, "head of the class." Known as the "thinking general" of ABRI, as the armed forces are called, Yudhoyono led discussions between generals and intellectuals on how the country's political, economic, legal and cultural practices could be changed - weeks before Suharto's resignation on May 21. As the military's chief of socio-political affairs, Yudhoyono is the point man for the army's involvement in civil affairs. On June 17 at the armed forces headquarters in East Jakarta, Yudhoyono spoke about ABRI's reform proposals with Asiaweek's Jose Manuel Tesoro:

How will the military's dual function as defender of the nation and participant in government change?

The needs and aspirations of the people are growing. I think that the dual function needs to be readjusted. In the past we have held civilian posts. In the future, the number can be decreased. The MPR [Indonesia's one-half elected, one-half appointed electoral college, which chooses the president and vice-president every five years] determines the outline of state policy. ABRI should also participate in the management of development, which is handled by the executive branch as well as the legislative [the DPR, Indonesia's 500-member parliament]. [So] ABRI should maintain its representation in the MPR as well as in the DPR. The quantity should be changed. In the past we had 100 seats in the DPR; now we have 75. It could go to 50.

What other reforms are being considered?

For example, ABRI recommends that the president be limited to two terms. We recommend equal standing between the government and the DPR. In other words, we want to promote social control over government.

ABRI appears to be pushing for measured change. But the social momentum for rapid, wholesale reform remains strong.

Managed reform is very important. ABRI thinks that it will be very dangerous if reform is uncontrolled. We witnessed a shock in May. There is disorientation in our society, [causing] a wave of reform that goes in any direction. This wave has to be stopped. ABRI has instructed our regional commanders to work with government agencies, with universities, and with informal and religious leaders to stop an uncontrolled wave of reforms. It is the consequence of a big change - psychologically, people want everything to be changed. Soon. Today, not even tomorrow. We have to direct it.

Could "managing reform" mean more involvement by the military in politics - even, if necessary, a military takeover?

In May I think many people predicted that ABRI would seize power. But we have no intention to seize power. ABRI believes that in the future, the best political environment is democracy. ABRI should work together hand-in-hand with our counterparts to improve our institutions of democracy. We have to maintain order but not move beyond necessity. We see the border. We see the line that we cannot cross in the new political life in this country.

How do you respond to allegations that elements in the military were behind some of the rioting in May?

I hate it that there are so many rumors. We have to stop them. ABRI commander Wiranto has instructed that an investigation be conducted on [this matter], based on the presumption of innocence. It's an open chapter.

And what about fears that personal and ideological rivalries divide ABRI?

ABRI is not divided. In any organization, there can be differences in opinion, in perception. [But] we have a tradition, we have a code of conduct, we have a chain of command.

As ABRI decreases its involvement in civilian institutions, will it reduce its business activities as well?

We have to be careful [on this point]. The main objective of ABRI business - the cooperatives, the foundations, the corporations - is to help soldiers. To help the families of our soldiers with education and by providing basic human needs. [But] we have to review these kinds of actions.

How long will it take to reform Indonesia?

There are two great tasks. First is overcoming the crisis. Our national effort should focus on overcoming the economic and financial crisis first. [This is] to maintain order, to legitimize our government, to stabilize our politics. We will try to do this over the next six months. From then on we can initiate reforms. Some can be done now, [such as] revising our laws on politics and preparing our law on elections. My personal opinion is that we have to conduct reform from now on. We have to determine priorities. But the sooner [reform is conducted] the better. For example, we can implement general elections in mid-1999. It is realistic. As soon as we are ready, we conduct elections. When we are ready to select a new president and vice-president, probably at the end of 1999, we do. We should avoid revolution, but we can conduct accelerated reforms.


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