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'Things will not improve unless we have a strong leadership.'

Just as 11 September changed forever the way America looked at the world, the terrorist attack of 12 October became a defining moment in Indonesian politics. Juwono Sudarsono, who was the first civilian defense minister in four decades, spoke about the changing environment and the challenges it poses to the country already gripped in a seemingly endless cycle of crisis. He warns that with so much attention being placed on the anti-terrorism drive, issues of political and economic reform could become neglected. Professor Juwono's presentation was delivered in the final gathering for 2002 of the monthly Van Zorge Report C Mercantile Forum luncheon on November 4, 2002.

Juwono Sudarsono Address

Allow me to begin by sharing some ideas and thoughts about politics and security in Indonesia post October 12.   Many of you are understandably curious about these two aspects: firstly the political side - particularly the effects in the political arena and at the government level; secondly on the security aspect - more specifically the issue of contemporary anti-terrorism policies. With respect to the political side, many people had expected President Megawati Soekarnoputri to rise to the occasion and use the sense of crisis generated by  the events of 12 October to make her mark and take firm steps to address the issue of terrorism. I think the general reaction from the public and the press both domestic and foreign is a sense of let-down that she has neither  been  in the forefront nor  in charge of this particular crisis.
 
She has instead left matters to her chief ministers, almost disregarding expectations from regional governments in Southeast Asia,  in Europe, the United States and Australia, about the need for a firm hand  in charge of investigations. I think this  is a question  of  her personal mode. She is not one who can inject  a certain decisiveness and assertiveness commonly expected in Western culture or Western style of governance.
 
My own personal speculation is that she is still somewhat traumatized after being sidelined during (the Special Session of the MPR) in October 1999 when Islamist parties in the Reform Faction in the People's Consultative Assembly elected (as president) Abdurrahamn Wahid as part of a compromise solution. When she displaced Wahid  in July 2001 to become president she encountered a new challenge by having to cater to a coalition with a cabinet comprising  Vice President Hamzah Haz and four or five key ministers from the  PPP and the Reform Faction. She will thus not want to be perceived  as being unduly  "anti-Moslem" in her anti-terror policy initiatives. That's why she has left it to her key ministers to take charge of policy in the wake of October 12.
 
There are also two other important issues here. One is that Vice President Hamzah Haz and key ministers from the Islamic parties in Cabinet would want to remain in government and enjoy accesss to the patronage and privileges of being members of the government ;  it is only through these positions  that they can accrue and dispense financial patronage  and perks for their parties in anticipation of the campaign in the 2004. The Islamic parties do not see it as opportune at this point to try to unseat her the way they conspired to unseat Wahid. I think this is a clear political calculation on the part of the Islamic parties they want to be in government, which  by implication, means they could acquire important connections with business groups who might  want to support them financially in the election campaign of 2004. Neither do  the Reform Faction want to work with Golkar Party to unseat her the way they cooperated  to remove Wahid.
 
The Islamic parties in government are also keen to retain a certain political niche and maintain the notion  of being for the interests of Islamic poor,  the so-called "street Islam". This is why the Vice President and some cabinet ministers attached to the Islamic parties are  careful in making public statements with regard  to the October 12 bombing and the attendant anti-terrorism regulations. This is also why the Vice President is very circumspect about being  critical of  the Laskar, the Front and the Majelis people, who have been suspected of being involved in violent anti-government demonstrations and bombings in the past two years. They need  to be very, very careful to retain this Islamic constituent  as part of their posture of being defenders  of "the broader Islam community". Hence their reluctant acquiscence over  the way Abu Bakar Ba'asyir was arrested in Central Java  by the police  and forcibly brought to Jakarta. This again is the part of their  political calculation, and of the importance of capturing the symbolism that Islamic parties must  retain for the 2004 electioneering.
 
Secondly, 16 months is too short a time to contemplate any forceful move to unseat the President on the grounds that she is siding with the Americans for adopting anti-terrorism policies. The government's firm stance against terrorism  is deliberately being manipulated by Islamic groups to be perceived as  "against Islam". For its part, the PDI-P (the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle) the President's party is also being discreet  in maintaining  lines of communication with Golkar Party. Politically  and ideologically, PDI-P and Golkar are at one, and it is in their mutual interest to retain  the 60 percent majority in parliament. Clearly   there are neither  strategic nor tactical gains  at the level of parliamentary politics to unseat President Megawati in the remaining months before the election campaign begins.
 
With regard to the bomb attack in Bali  itself, I think  there are three major speculations - what people in the military call "target fixations."  The first is that al-Qaeda is the culprit this is the position of Western governments. They know "in their bones" that al-Qaeda "must be  behind this". On conventional wisdom alone,  it is not too farfetched  to speculate that al-Qaeda may have at least been involved in the financing. But the second tier, the masterminds, there may been foreigners, maybe Arabs, and Southeast Asians linked to the al-Qaeda. The third tier is the local operatives, Indonesian nationals. I think these are the three tier linkages of a possible connection to al-Qaeda. Despite this speculation I have not seen any  major news or intelligence reports  clearly  affirming that the Bali bombing  is directly connected to al-Qaeda.

Just two days ago, the Australian foreign minister said he knew that "the hand of Al-Qaeda" was behind this attack. The problem now is trying to pinpoint the links between the first, second and third tiers. As you know,  some  press reports last week said that there were six people involved - four foreigners and two Indonesians. Others said there were eight - six Indonesians and two foreign nationals. The second tier problem I think is important for the current investigation because the focus has been on Jamaah Islamiyah,  which  we know from detailed domestic and foreign press reports,  was established in Singapore and Malaysia in the 1980s. In fact, JI  was Malaysian based but led by Indonesian nationals, those who fled Indonesia in the mid 1980s at the height of President Soeharto's power.  Abu Bakar Ba'asyir is widely regarded as the spiritual leader of this organization but I am not sure  whether someone identified as a "spiritual leader" is culpable for criminal arrest under our law. The problem currently faced by the government, including the police and the military, is to pinpoint the links between alleged JI  and  local operatives.

The second speculation is that Americans carried it out. This is very rife in Indonesian circles, even among educated Indonesians , in government, in business, and also in some sections of the military. There is a fairly strong prevalence of opinion that "Americans" or "the CIA must have been behind it."

The third speculation is that it is the work of the Army in order to exact revenge on the Australian government for the loss of East Timor in late 1999 and   its attendant loss of prestige and status, and for Australia's role in the breakaway of  East Timor in September 1999. Again, this is also widely accepted by many circles, most certainly among Islamic groups  who are wary of the return of military repression against Islamic groups.

All three variations are given currency among a variety of political opinion in Indonesia. Not all of them are perceived in the same degree, but perception is everything and you cannot undo this, especially at a time when the country is still in the midst of political, economic and social crises.

I now want to touch briefly on the security aspect. I gauge there is general disappointment with the reaction of the chief security minister for not being seen as being sufficiently " in front and in  charge," especially after being given the mandate by the President to oversee the anti-terror drive. I believe there is an understandable element of political calculation on his part, because the chief security minister must calibrate  his own presidential prospects for 2004. And the broader Islamic votes remain  an important political element to be taken into consideration. Mr. Yudhoyono (Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono) does not want to be seen as being too aggressive "against Islamic" constituents. After all, the vast majority of potential voters are Muslims. How he and his office  deals  with these delicate issues and the perceptions of Islamic groups will be an important element in the next 16 months.

My final word is about the relationship between the police and the military, especially in terms of their effective capabilities. I have never put too much faith in the legal formulations  of the anti-terrorism decrees (or any legislation for that matter), nor even on the notion that the decrees should  be superseded by a law passed in the parliament. I believe too much credence is given to legislation as part of the solution. The real problem for me is that the police and the military over the past three and a half years have been at their lowest point in terms of effective capabilities in operational terms, intelligence gathering, logistical support or other aspects of diligent police work.  I think they have become victims of heightened expectation in "democratic governance", by putting the police at the forefront of providing security after more than 40 years of military dominance. It was simply unrealistic on the part of President Abdurrahman Wahid to expect that by declaring himself the first democratic civilian leader to be elected,  he could overnight establish civilian supremacy by having the police in the forefront of the criminal justice system. The  socio-economic underpinnings of a sound and functioning legal system are simply not yet  in place.

I had told Wahid  personally that as the first civilian defense minister in 40 years I  was merely symbolizing the beginning of "civilian supremacy" and  that  the substance of effective power remains with the military, especially the Army. It would take at least 10 to 15 years and that will still very much depend on the effectiveness of party consolidation in parliament as well as in the realm of Realpolitik to establish substantive civilian democracy and the notion of supremacy of civilians I did press on him to recognize that it would take at least 10 to 15 years to develop a fully credible police force with a decent budget. But this also meant that it would take at least  six percent economic growth rate each year, principally because since 1998  the official police and military budget only covers about 30 percent of their operational  requirements to be an effective force.

The Indonesian police and military are now perhaps Southeast Asia's least effective instruments of authoritative governance, which are  required to provide public protection and defense  for a country as large and far-flung like Indonesia. The defense and security budget only provides for limited funds that are divided into the four services, with the police receiving about 35 percent of total  official disbursement. And  even though there maybe in-kind contributions from businesses, foundations and cooperatives run by the police and the military, I would say that our total budget effectively does not exceed US$3,5  billion. That's still less than the Singapore's defense budget of $4.2 billion. The contrast is too stark.

Our challenge is to establish  sound "public goods" namely  the police and military which can function and support necessary framework  for a democratic government. Professional police and military forces  are as important as good electricity, quality roads, fine harbors, reliable telecommunications; they are all part of the infrastructures of good governance.  For the moment,  we must view the current police and the military not purely  in terms of institutions of state governance, but more as power centers functioning around   personalities, factions and groups at the center as well as in the regions. A the end of the day,   it is the majors and the colonels, the mid-career officers who  really count in the public provision of  security on the ground. And to put it simply,  they are under funded, underpaid and under-equipped, and under-lapreciated  in many cases. My experience  in gleaning through the defense budget is that over the past 50 years there has never been a decent official  budget for the police and the military. To partially overcome the deficit,  what have surfaced  are an ad hoc arrangements centering on individuals - individual majors or colonels, or individual generals in each command and in each unit. They may be  united by a formal chain of command, but that "chain"  is not really "in command" because there is a lot of de facto disconnection between TNI headquarters and local military commands in  troubled areas. From my own personal experience as education minister at the time (1998-1999), it was perhaps unavoidable  that during the political crisis some  police units, particularly in Jakarta, established informal  links with the Islamic Defenders Front, and the local military in Jakarta with Laskar Jihad. (As education ministry I had both police and military commanders in my office to discuss preventing student demonstrations getting out of hand).  It was part of the intra-elite political maneuvering  in anticipation of the MPR (Special) Session in October 1999. President B.J. Habibie was supported by mainstream Islam, including many Islamic leaders  who had supported President Soeharto in  the last five years of his rule. But at that point there were  also elements in the police and the military who were engaged in undermining Habibie's authority. The same happened during Abdurrahman Wahid's presidency,  although that was largely through his own making  because I think he did not really understand the nature of the realities of the military in politics and swirl of  police politics at Jakarta headquarters and  in  key regional commands.

It is not a very happy picture for us, I'm afraid. I'm sure that those of you involved in business here must have your own experiences with local police or local military at your premises, plants or factory sites. I thank you for staying here (in Indonesia) despite the higher price you might have to pay for your overhead as a result of these unfortunate realities.  My own feeling is that things will not improve until and unless we have a strong and firm political leadership at the center. This is our  biggest problem. Some people say that we need a (Vladimir) Putin, or that we need a Zhu Rongji, at the forefront  to really get to grips  not only with issues of terrorism, but  the more important  problem of credible and sustained  political and economic reforms.

I think one of the most dangerous consequences of the target fixation on the anti-terrorism issue is that we have lost momentum over the really important and crucial issues such as the need to follow-through towards a complete overhaul of our  economic and political system. But again this is not an area which renders optimism because compromise centering on money politics  has become part of the political calculations among the cabinet, the parliament as we  see in  "the money triangle" among  the cabinet, DPR's Commission IX on financial affairs, and IBRA. The terms and conditions of some of these banking and company restructuring also affects the scale of financial payoff to  key individual party members of all major parties in parliament. This is the name of the game at the moment, and unfortunately because of the anti-terrorism issue, it may difficult to refocus on the critical political and economic reforms. I think I will  stop here. Thank you.


Question #1:

You mention that there's a problem of collusion or synergy between lower ranking military and police officers. But I would say that more often than not it is at the higher level. So why would you focus on just the problem at the regional personnel or lower level?

In terms of real effectiveness on the ground I would still focus on mid-ranking officers: the colonels, the lieutenant colonels, and the majors. But you are also right, when you point to the relationship between some higher-ranking military officials. My experience in November 1998, exactly four years ago, was precisely to do with the so-called paramilitary forces. The use of the Laskar, the Front, as part of the political struggle to make Habibie's nomination a success in the (MPR) Special Session of November 1998.

I can say with confidence, although I cannot provide legal evidence, that the commander of the (Jakarta) police force at that time had links with Front Pembela Islam (FPI, the Islamic Defenders Front). And the commander of the Jakarta Garrison, who is now commander of the Command and Staff College in Bandung, was the one who provided support for Laskar Jihad's establishment in January 2000. That was part of the politics between the military or factions of military and these groups. They used these paramilitary groups as a counter-weight to student demonstrators who wanted to storm parliament in November 1998 and thereby invalidate Habibie's presidency. I know from experience because after the November 13, 1998 (shooting) incident, none of the police or military commanders of Jakarta wanted to address the press. At the palace in November 1998, President Habibie assigned me, Minister of Education, to explain the Semanggi (shooting) incident to the media. This is an indication of the split between politicians supporting police and the military. That was part of the internal struggle prefacing  the election of June 1999. I am certain that the current Jakarta military  commander and the current Jakarta chief of Police are in no way linked anymore with Laskar Jihad and FPI. But until September and October 2000, the relationship was apparent.

 
Question #2:

You mentioned the need for a strong leadership at the center. Is there any clarity or consensus on what that strong leader needs to do?

The first precondition would be a firm grasp on intra-elite corruption in government as it relates to cabinet, parliament and IBRA. I think this is most important because IBRA, the parliament and the cabinet are really fixated on this money triangle in anticipation of money politics for the campaign of 2004. Until that is addressed, I do not think any salvation can be expected from the current leadership in government. I have my own personal preferences for the current (Indonesian Military) commander Gen. Endriartono Sutarto whom I knew quite well when he was Army vice chief of staff. He seriously addressed the need for Army reforms; he was the one who established the joint battalion units to be better trained for troubled areas, such as in Ambon, Maluku and Aceh. But, he is alone. He should also be praised for his exemplary behavior because he does not drive in fancy cars and  he goes to official functions very simply. But I hear he is alone. Those around him, the three stars, the two stars, at the TNI headquarters are still uneasy about the imperative for internal military reforms, especially  in terms of restructuring and reforming their extra-budgetary business privileges.

Three years ago at the TNI headquarters meeting in April 2000 I said let's make it the defense budget good for the generals and also good for the corporals. At that time, the real problem was there was no transparency. This is the main reason why soldiers on the ground under-perform. There was a lot of misuse of power in budget authority in the military and the police. But again this is something that has been going on for more than 40 years, not just during Soeharto's period. This whole notion of "you give me money, I give you security" has been going on for more than 45 years. No one has really addressed the issue of providing a decent official budget for the police and military.

It is  the same thing that's happening in the civil service. The generals complained to me, two years ago, that if the military are to reform then civilian directors at state owned companies - in Pertamina, Indosat, and other state enterprises - must undergo similar reforms the same. They (the directors) get all these perks, commanding hundred millions of rupiah a month. I think this is a fair point. I then told this to my colleagues in the civil service: that they must not only point to the military and the police for reforms. At the same time I  told my colleagues in the military that if you want to be at the forefront of reform, then you yourselves must start. At least begin to  reduce the mark-ups of procurement, say, for ships, or tanks, or helicopters, from 150 percent to 80 percent, to 60 percent, in five years if at all possible. I think I was able to  convince some of  them that 10 to 15 years was a reasonable timeframe to allow for a realistic and  credible  military reform. But then Gus Dur dismissed me.

 
Question #3:

What can explain Abu Bakar Ba'asyir's return to Jakarta post Soeharto's rule, given the fact that (then Jakarta Military commander) Djaja Soeparman, (then Jakarta Police chief) Noegroho Djajoesman and (then Military chief) Wiranto already had ties with Laskar Jihad and FPI? Do you think Ba'asyir was actually invited back home?

Ba'asyir was persuaded by Kadungga (South Sulawesi born Abdul Wahid Kadungga, 62. He holds a Dutch passport, but his whereabouts is still unknown), believed to be a noted  Darul Islam  ideologist who sincerely believed that the only salvation for this country was the application of syariah law. He returned to Indonesia about two months after the downfall of Soeharto. I think he (Ba'asyir) was sincere in his conviction, just like others in  Jamaah Islamiyah community, that a Southeast Asian Islamic caliphate can be established within the next 10 to 15 years. This is the appeal for the Islamic poor, the so-called the street Islam. As in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan I think  the poor  has always been easily  manipulated by  the angry middle-class, who are disaffected by their respective government. It is the same here, and to an extent in Malaysia. This is the appeal of street Islam and the appeal of bin Ladenism to several   Islamic groups in Indonesia. It's shallow but its very simplicity explains a lot for them.

 
Question #4  

Let me come back to the question of leadership. You quoted some names, like Putin, Zhu Rongji, may be Lee Kuan Yew? Do you see anybody in the domestic political arena that could help Indonesia out of this situation?

I am afraid not at the moment. Not with the current stock of leaders. I'm a believer that a strong leader could be created by circumstances, rather than persons creating circumstances.  Ironically, it has become clear that the 1998 crisis was not severe enough to produce  a strong leader. And the democratization of the past four years has only resulted in the office of the Presidency being effectively devalued.  My NGO friends say that a weak military and a weak police is good for democracy. It might be good for democracy, but it's certainly bad for the efficacy. When we had Soeharto, we had efficacy but not democracy, but at least people could address issues and predict certain political  outcomes, which are very important for the business community. What we have now is many, mini-Soehartos in many, many areas, and much  less of efficacy in governance. And effective governance is the key issue for sustainable economic recovery.