Indonesian govt faces mounting criticism for tapping senior TNI official as interim regent

A worker arranges the ballot papers for the 2020 Makassar regional elections at the Celebes Convention Centre in Makassar, South Sulawesi, on Nov. 24, 2020. - Jakarta Post/ANN

JAKARTA, May 30 (Jakarta Post/ANN): Indonesian president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration is in hot water after appointing a senior Indonesian Military (TNI) official as interim regent in Maluku despite swelling criticism, fuelling further speculation of a “hidden agenda” and prompting concern over a “prolonged polemic” on the opaque process to replace hundreds of outgoing regional heads.

Home Minister Tito Karnavian recently appointed the State Intelligence Agency’s (BIN) Central Sulawesi bureau head Brig-Gen Andi Chandra As'aduddin as the acting regent of West Seram in Maluku, assuming leadership of the elected regent whose term expired last week.

Stringent security measures were in place as hundreds of police officers were seen on guard to secure the swearing-in of Andi, two other regents and a mayor by outgoing Maluku Governor Murad Ismail in the provincial capital of Ambon last week.

Their appointment took place in the face of simmering criticism over the absence of a much-awaited new regulation detailing transparent and accountable procedures for vetting interim leaders as ruled by the Constitutional Court in April.

The prevailing 2016 Regional Elections Law authorises the government to appoint high-ranking government officials, such as secretaries-general, directors-general and provincial secretaries, as interim governors, regents and mayors until some 270 definitive leaders are elected in 2024 polls.

In its judicial opinion issued as part of a ruling on the appointment of acting regional heads, the court said the government had to consider devising regulations that ensured “measurable and clear mechanisms” to make sure it did not ignore democratic principles.

The regulation should serve as the implementing regulations of the 2016 law, which bans active military and police personnel from running for regional heads but says nothing as to whether or not they can be appointed as interim heads.

The court also stressed, citing the 2014 Civil Servants Law, that TNI personnel and police officers could be appointed to certain high-ranking government positions after they had been discharged from duty “if it is necessary and (if their) competencies match through an open and competitive process”.

This makes them eligible to serve as acting governors.

The 2004 law on the TNI, meanwhile, says that active military personnel can be seconded to other government institutions, which oversee defence, security or intelligence, like BIN.

Andi’s appointment has elicited strong disapproval from critics, including civil groups, who have called for the government to revoke Andi's appointment.

The groups, such as the University of Indonesia’s Center for Political Studies (Puskapol) and the Association for Elections and Democracy, also urged the Home Ministry to steer clear of tapping active members of the TNI and National Police to fill the remaining soon-to-be-vacated seats because it was against democratic principles.

"This shows weak commitment on the Home Ministry’s part in carrying out the reform’s mandate, implementing the rule of law and guaranteeing democratic principles in the appointment of acting regional heads," Hurriyah from Puskapol said.

The government however has defended its decision, asserting that Andi’s appointment was backed by a strong legal basis and does not violate any laws or the Constitutional Court’s ruling.

Referring to Presidential Regulation No. 79/2020 on BIN, Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform Minister Tjahjo Kumolo said that BIN provincial heads were considered as echelon II government officials and therefore could be assigned as acting regents and mayors.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD said TNI and police personnel could be appointed as interim regional heads if they had been seconded to other state institutions.

But military expert Anton Aliabbas from the Center for Intermestic and Diplomatic Engagement pointed out that the appointment of active members of the TNI as interim regional leaders would cast a negative light on the military institution as it would reverse years of reform.

“This is because one of the main criticisms of TNI reform is the phenomenon of the rise of active officers occupying civilian positions during the New Order era.

Moreover, such an appointment can make the TNI more vulnerable to being politicised,” Anton said. - The Jakarta Post/ANN

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Indonesia , Govt , Interim Regent , Criticism , Issues


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