Sunday, June 24, 2007

Military-business link root of all evil: Activists

Tuesday, June 05, 2007
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Rights activists have asked the President to issue a decree nationalizing all commercial military interests, claiming military involvement in business is the root of rights violations against civilians.

Commenting on last week's deadly shooting in Alas Tlogo village, East Java, Sri Yunanto, the director of the Institute for Defense Security and Peace Studies, said the conflict was not only a land dispute but also a conflict between the military's business interests and the interests of the people.

"We saw the obvious misuse of military assets for business purposes and the misuse of the state apparatus to protect that business. These things are the root of the problem that led to the shooting," Yunanto told reporters Monday.

"The President's political stance on speeding up the formulation of a decree on a national team for the takeover of TNI (Indonesian military) businesses is very important in the reformation of the military, especially in order to get the military out of the business sector," he said.

The Defense Ministry should identify all military business assets in order to terminate the military's commercial interests as required by Law No. 34/2004 on the TNI, which prohibits the TNI and all of its members from taking part in business activities, said Yunanto.

The Pasuruan case is just one of many incidents in which state assets were misused to serve the business interests of the military, according to Yunanto. Such incidents can potentially lead to conflicts and human rights abuses, he added.

Yunanto called on the TNI to investigate the shooting case in the civil court system and not in the military court, as the case revolves around allegations of human rights abuses.

In a similar tone, Bambang Widodo Umar, a lecturer at the University of Indonesia, said the National Police should have been actively involved in the initial investigation into the case and should not have let the Navy's military police conduct the investigation on their own.

"The domain of the case is the police domain because it involves civilians. The police should have been braver about launching an investigation, even though the case involves the military," Bambang said.

He said the police should also investigate the case to balance interpretations of what happened.

"The Navy can investigate the case, but the police must also investigate it in order to serve the civilian's interests. This would prevent any claim of subjectivity on the part of any institution," said Bambang, adding that the shooting case shows that military reform has been half-hearted.

"This means TNI structural reform is not working. Conflicts between the military and civilians are happening everywhere. The TNI should not be involved in everything. Let law enforcement institutions, such as the police and the courts, be responsible for law enforcement," Bambang said.(02)

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