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Indonesia: Critics Caution Over Rise in Military Spending

5 April 2005

Critics of the military are worried that the government's proposal to increase the defense budget this year would be used to expand the Army's much-criticized territorial function.

The Ministry of Defense has proposed to the House of Representatives a Rp 5 trillion (US$538 million) increase in the 2005 defense spending from the current Rp 21.6 trillion.

Meanwhile, the Army is planning to establish 22 new territorial commands nationwide; develop three new military commands in Riau and Bangka-Belitung, and Merauke in Papua; and a new division of its Strategic Resort Command (Kostrad) in Sorong, also in Papua. The plan was unveiled by Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Djoko Santoso during a recent meeting with the House of Representatives Commission I on political, security, and foreign affairs.

Minister of Defense Juwono Sudarsono seemed to support the plan, saying the expansion was crucial to help ensure security in the country.

But human rights activists Usman Hamid and Zoemrotin K. Soesilo were concerned the move would hamper the process of democracy in the country and allow the Army to further strengthen its role in the business sector.

"The presence of more territorial commands will have three consequences: First, it will endanger the democratization process. Second, it will ensure the military continues its (illegal) timber business. Thirdly, it will mean we will continue to be unable to prevent rampant human rights abuses from taking place," Usman said.

Military analyst Andi Widjajanto from the University of Indonesia said that the Army's plan to develop more territorial offices was against the military's internal reform drive.

"If the Army is concerned about the development of defense capacity, it must develop its strike force units in several strategic areas instead of establishing (territorial) institutions that have a structure parallel with civilian administrations," Andi said.

The Army's plan to set up new military base in Papua comes amid an ongoing investigation into the involvement of TNI officials in illegal logging and timber smuggling in the province.

The investigation comes after a report made by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and the Indonesian environmental group Telapak last month that accused security officers and government officials of being involved in the smuggling of 300,000 cubic meters of timber a month from Indonesia (mostly Papua province) to China.

The two NGOs identified the Sorong, Manokwari, Fak Fak, Nabire and Serui regencies in Papua as the main illegal logging hotspots, from which the logs are shipped to the Chinese port of Zhangjiagang.

A report by an internal TNI investigation team obtained by The Jakarta Post shows that the Army, the Navy and police officers are all involved in the logging.

According to the report, the several timber companies in Papua are engaged in "a coordination" arrangement with TNI officers, police personnel, customs officers and forestry officials, who are paid between Rp 50 million and Rp 500 million.

"This coordination is a various levels, from the commander in charge of the Navy's ships, commander of the Navy's sea defense area, the operational assistant to the Navy's eastern fleet, the Navy's eastern fleet commander to the Navy chief's operational assistant," the report says.

In the police, the funds are also distributed at all levels; from police precinct commander to the Papuan police chief, it says.

Spokespeople from the security forces could not be reached for comment.

Tiarma Siboro,
The Jakarta Post

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