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Indonesia Military

Indonesia Military
Indonesia Military*

On a Sunday morning in the late 1990s I met with Air Marshall Ganjar Wiranegara, then was a Colonel, and talked about the current situation which was worsening in every field in our country: from economy, monetary crisis and civil-military relationship. A kind of situation that triggered the fall-from-grace of Suharto's 32-odd year dictatorial rule soon afterwards.

Mr. Ganjar* observed that Indonesia's military has undergone, in his own word, "the lowest point of dignity" so long as people-military relation goes.

His word came in the midth of civil unrest and students protest throughout the country with some of Jakarta students had been killed by military in what was famously known as Semanggi incident.

***

Indonesia's military enjoys many priveleges and leverages that might envy any military establishment in the world. Unlike in any democratic countries, it has what the so-called dwi fungsi OR dual function in which the Consitution gives the armed forces a central role in politics as well as responsibility for defence.

In Suharto's era, it's the military that occupies most of very important portfolio both in government as well as in state-run companies.

When I was a kid I recalled reading Tempo Magazine's special report on military in which it told us this interesting joke:

The other day, a father with five children asked their kids on what they want to be when they grow up.

"I want to be a director of State Bank," said the first.
"I want to be a director of Garuda Indonesia," said the second.
"I want to be a Minister of Finance" said the third.
"I want to be an Indonesian Ambassador to the US" said the fourth.
"I want to be a Governor in Jakarta" said the fifth.

The wise father smiles and is proud of the fact that his kids are all ambitious persons. He also smiles because all his kids 'destinations' are achievable provided he gives a good advice to them. After a moment of thought, he smiles wider and conclude the talk saying, " Ok, kids. Listen, you can achieve whatever you wanna be if you join the military academy!

***

Around two years after my conversation with Mr. Ganjar, our president was BJ Habibie, Suharto was no longer in sight. Military was still "in the lowest point." At the time, I listened to Juwono Sudarsono's interview with BBC stating that "so far the military is still the finest institution in our country."

He seems to remind us to be cautious in criticising the armed forces and at the same time to acknowledge the significant of it's role.

I agree then. And still do now. We need them to guard this country against any enemies, the real enemies that might come from foreign land, not their own people as it happened in the past. At the same time we need to remind them to not overstep their role in the future. We dont want to be such country as Thailand, Myanmar and Pakistan. Also, we dont want another father of five-kids advises their children with the same not-so-funny joke above.

What we want is simple: let the best sons and daughters of the country compete to hold whatever good position they deserve. Only then can we compete with other nation in facing any challenge that lay ahead.

*We call the same name for formal and informal situation.

** This is an old post written after Reformasi

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