Indonesian govt greenlights revision of military and police laws amid objections


- AFP File

JAKARTA: The government of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (pic) looks set to press ahead with a controversial plan to revise two laws governing the National Police and the Indonesian Military (TNI) despite strong objections from civil society and human rights groups.

The House of Representatives is set to begin formal deliberations in the coming weeks on the controversial bills seeking to, among other things, extend the tenure and authority of both police and military officers after lawmakers across parties agreed to endorse the revision last week.

Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko said President Jokowi’s administration had begun drafting a presidential letter in which the country's top man would name a handful of ministers to represent him during the bills’ deliberations at the House.

“I have no idea [about when the presidential letter will be submitted to the legislative body], but the process is ongoing,” Moeldoko told reporters on Tuesday (June 11).

The initiative to revise both the TNI and police laws has met stiff opposition from civil society and human rights groups, who fear it would invoke abuse of authority within the police and pave the way for the military to return to civilian affairs.

Among the key changes in the revision of the National Police Law is a provision raising the retirement age of police officers from 58 to between 60 and 65, depending on the officer's role.

The draft bill would also allow the president, after consulting with the House, to extend the tenure of four-star police generals – the rank of National Police chiefs – indefinitely, without any clear limitations.

It is also said to give the police sweeping authority over cyberspace and in conducting surveillance as well as intelligence work, raising concerns about potential abuse of power.

Similarly, a proposed change to the TNI Law seeks to increase the retirement age of TNI personnel of certain ranks, including generals, from 53 to between 58 and 60 — particularly “soldiers who have special abilities, competencies and expertise”.

A coalition of civil society groups focusing on the security sector has raised concern over a proposed change to the TNI Law that would allow active military members to be posted to any position in the government if the president decides a need for it.

Under the current TNI Law, active personnel may only be posted to 10 ministries and institutions, including the Office of the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister; the Defense Ministry; the State Intelligence Agency (BIN); the National Resilience Institute (Lemhanas) and the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas).

Civil groups also highlighted the proposed expansion of the TNI’s non-war military operations from the current 14 to 19 types, which include aiding the government in facing cyberattacks and stamping out illicit drug circulation in the country.

Responding to the growing criticism, Moeldoko dismissed suggestions that the revisions could lead to police and military overreach, arguing that the public could always play a role in controlling abusive security personnel.

"The public can control everything. We are a democratic country. All of us have the right and opportunity to control," he noted.

Moeldoko, who is a former military commander, also expressed his confidence that the military would not want to overstep the Constitution, noting that he “doesn’t think that the TNI wants to exceed its duties”.

TNI commander Agus Subiyanto played down the growing concern over the military’s increasing involvement in government agencies and other non-military domains, stressing that the prevailing law allowed the armed forces to participate in non-war military operations already.

"I think these are the duties of the TNI that must be understood by the public. They are in accordance with the law," Agus said on Wednesday.

Agus has been in hot water for saying that the TNI had evolved and played a greater “multifunctional” role in serving the country, spurring concerns of military overreach even further among civil society groups, such as during the New Order era when the military, at the time called the Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI), had a dwifungsi (dual function).

The regime of authoritarian president Soeharto, a former military general himself, allowed ABRI to take on civilian roles in government beyond its main task of safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity; a system that effectively turned the military into Soeharto’s tool to stamp out political dissent for decades.

Indonesian Police deputy chief Comr. Gen. Agus Andrianto declined to comment on the draft bill.

“All the decisions [on the bill] will be made by Baleg [the House’s legislation body] and the government,” Agus said.

The plan to revise the TNI Law and the Police Law adds to the growing number of controversial bills being pushed to the legislature before president-elect Prabowo Subianto takes over the presidency from President Jokowi in October.

They include the proposed changes to the Broadcasting Law, Constitutional Law and State Ministries Law. - The Jakarta Post/ANN

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