The future TNI: A responsive, capable armed forces

Posted by Admin on Tuesday, 7 October 2003 | Opini

The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Tue, 10/07/2003 7:00 AM

Sayidiman Suryohadiprojo, Former Governor National Resilience Institute (Lemhanas), Jakarta

Every year on Oct. 5 the Indonesian Military (TNI) celebrates its anniversary. It was 58 years ago that Indonesia developed its national armed forces from the existing People’s Security Agency (BKR). The first name of the armed forces was the Tentara Keamanan Rakyat (People’s Armed Security Forces), later changed to the Tentara Keselamatan Rakyat (People’s Armed Forces for Safety) and then later the Tentara Republik Indonesia (the Republic of Indonesia Military).

The latest name change back to the TNI (after the name ABRI or the Indonesian Armed Forces was used from 1964 to 1999) was made to stress that the armed forces represented the people’s struggle against colonialism. This change included the integration of all the armed organizations formed by the people since the proclamation of independence in 1945, like the Barisan Pemberontakan Rakyat Indonesia (Indonesian People’s Front for Struggle) and others.

The TNI is therefore an armed forces that from the start defended national sovereignty and integrity against all foreign intrusions, but at the same time always had the people’s interests and aspirations at heart.

Independence fighters of the 1945 generation share the conviction that the TNI was more a result of the determined people’s struggle against the forces of colonialism who intended to return to Indonesia after the end of World War II in 1945, rather than a formal government action to provide the new republic with an official armed forces.

This could explain why among most of the 1945 Independence fighters the TNI is not just an organization for national defense but more so an organization to defend and promote the people’s aspirations and interests as formulated in the 1945 Constitution.

This character of the TNI can be considered unique compared to armed forces in other nations. It was also this characteristic that made possible a continuing struggle against the Dutch when in December 1948, the Dutch military forces imprisoned then president Sukarno and vice president Mohammad Hatta and the whole cabinet after the occupation of Yogyakarta by the Dutch forces.

Other armed forces might have ended their struggle when their government ceased to function. But that was not the TNI attitude and with the leadership of then commander Gen. Sudirman, the TNI and the people continued the struggle until the Dutch recognized the sovereignty and independence of Indonesia in December 1949.

Now we are in 2003 and the TNI faces an entirely different situation in Indonesia and global environment. Nobody doubts that in the past the TNI made very important contributions to the Republic as well as to the life of many in Indonesia. Without these contributions it is highly questionable whether the Republic would still exist today.

However the TNI also made some big mistakes that darkened its former reputation as the people’s armed forces. This is one of the main reasons why the TNI since 1998 became a target of strong criticism by many people.

It is important today that the TNI is now willing and able to look ahead while still implementing its basic function as the defender of the Republic and its people.

First, the TNI must be able to put itself in the right position within a democratic political system. As defender of Pancasila, the nation’s state philosophy, the TNI must defend democracy as one of Pancasila’s values. The right position for the TNI is to place itself fully under the control of the government which by implication cannot be anything else other than civilian control.

Second, the TNI must improve its capability as a defense organization to be able to always secure the national interests and sovereignty. It means that the TNI should pursue the highest possible professionalism as a military establishment, making use of the many developments in science and technology, including all the weapons systems development in the dynamic global environment.

It is the obligation of every Indonesian government to provide the TNI with the maximum possibility to become a highly dependable defense organization with capabilities complementing each other at sea, on land and in the air. The Republic as an archipelagic state depends very much for its sovereignty and the achievement of prosperity on a highly dependable and professional TNI that can match other armed forces in the world.

Third, the TNI should always maintain a close relationship with the people as the main strength of its defense obligations. Being a highly professional military armed forces must not prevent the TNI from being close to the people.

It is not an easy task for the government as well as for the TNI to realize these objectives. Political, economic and other factors do not always support these endeavors. Nevertheless, the people will always look forward to a strong and dependable TNI that they can trust to represent them and defend their interests. Let that motivate the TNI leadership in achieving its objectives.

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