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"No, the military isn't running Indonesia"
Comment by Harold Crouch, published in the International Herald Tribune on 2 August 2001


"No, the Military Isn't Running Indonesia" By Harold Crouch

Thursday, August 2, 2001

International Herald Tribune

JAKARTA In the early hours of Monday, July 23, President Abdurrahman Wahid ordered dissolution of the People's Consultative Assembly, which was due to meet that day to dismiss him. But leaders of the armed forces and police refused to obey the order, just as they had rejected his recurring proposal during the previous six months to introduce emergency rule. So Mr. Wahid was unable to prevent the assembly from replacing him that afternoon with the vice president, Megawati Sukarnoputri. At a time when the military is still searching for an appropriate role as a professional force, Mr. Wahid's efforts to gain its support for an emergency decree presented its leaders with a dilemma. Refusal to obey the democratically elected president was clearly an act of insubordination. But obedience would have allied the military with him in his struggle against the democratically elected legislature. . Of course, the military's decision was also influenced by the pragmatic consideration that it did not want to be identified with a political leader whose prospects for survival were declining by the day. . Does the military's defiance of the president indicate that it has abandoned its low profile and intends to reassert itself in the political arena? Many commentators have noted that military leaders became close to Mrs. Megawati in the last year or so, and have predicted that the military will become a major force in her government. . That officers had gravitated toward Mrs. Megawati does not, however, indicate the existence of a special relationship. The military's move toward her was due more to alienation from Mr. Wahid than to confidence in her. The political system is such that the vice president is the only constitutional alternative to an incumbent president. And it was not only military officers who moved toward Mrs. Megawati. Almost the entire political elite and much of the public made the same journey. . Much has been made of the common nationalist outlook of the new president and the armed forces. In particular it has been pointed out that both Mrs. Megawati and the military leaders are committed to preservation of the Indonesian nation. Neither is prepared to countenance the possible departure of either Aceh or Irian Jaya from the republic. But which significant political force in Indonesia, outside those two provinces, advocates their separation? That Mrs. Megawati and the military agree on holding Indonesia together does not create a special bond between them that is not shared by virtually everyone else. A few retired generals hold senior leadership positions in Mrs. Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle. But retired military officers are found in several parties, not only hers. They undoubtedly share some common attitudes; but their primary identity is with their respective parties, and they can't be seen as instruments of military domination. In the case of Mrs. Megawati's party, the two most prominent former military officers served as regional commanders but never occupied the highest posts in the military headquarters. . There are few grounds for believing that President Megawati will pave the way for restoring the political power of the armed forces. Her political party was the victim of military repression before 1998. The new president and the military leaders share a common conservatism and suspicion of radical change. Mrs. Megawati is unlikely to embark on a far-reaching program of reform, including reform in the military field. Officers accused of perpetrating human right abuses in the course of carrying out their military duties, whether in East Timor, Aceh or Jakarta, are not likely to be tried. . The army's current military offensive in Aceh and repressive measures against supporters of independence for Irian Jaya will not be halted by Mrs. Megawati. And, most importantly for the military, its business interests are not likely to be disturbed. But this hardly amounts to return of the armed forces to a dominant role in the national government. . The writer, who directs the International Crisis Group's Indonesia Project in Jakarta, contributed this comment to the International Herald Tribune. For Related Topics See: Opinion & Editorial

< < Back to Start of Article JAKARTA In the early hours of Monday, July 23, President Abdurrahman Wahid ordered dissolution of the People's Consultative Assembly, which was due to meet that day to dismiss him. But leaders of the armed forces and police refused to obey the order, just as they had rejected his recurring proposal during the previous six months to introduce emergency rule. So Mr. Wahid was unable to prevent the assembly from replacing him that afternoon with the vice president, Megawati Sukarnoputri. At a time when the military is still searching for an appropriate role as a professional force, Mr. Wahid's efforts to gain its support for an emergency decree presented its leaders with a dilemma. Refusal to obey the democratically elected president was clearly an act of insubordination. But obedience would have allied the military with him in his struggle against the democratically elected legislature. . Of course, the military's decision was also influenced by the pragmatic consideration that it did not want to be identified with a political leader whose prospects for survival were declining by the day. . Does the military's defiance of the president indicate that it has abandoned its low profile and intends to reassert itself in the political arena? Many commentators have noted that military leaders became close to Mrs. Megawati in the last year or so, and have predicted that the military will become a major force in her government. . That officers had gravitated toward Mrs. Megawati does not, however, indicate the existence of a special relationship. The military's move toward her was due more to alienation from Mr. Wahid than to confidence in her. The political system is such that the vice president is the only constitutional alternative to an incumbent president. And it was not only military officers who moved toward Mrs. Megawati. Almost the entire political elite and much of the public made the same journey. . Much has been made of the common nationalist outlook of the new president and the armed forces. In particular it has been pointed out that both Mrs. Megawati and the military leaders are committed to preservation of the Indonesian nation. Neither is prepared to countenance the possible departure of either Aceh or Irian Jaya from the republic. But which significant political force in Indonesia, outside those two provinces, advocates their separation? That Mrs. Megawati and the military agree on holding Indonesia together does not create a special bond between them that is not shared by virtually everyone else. A few retired generals hold senior leadership positions in Mrs. Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle. But retired military officers are found in several parties, not only hers. They undoubtedly share some common attitudes; but their primary identity is with their respective parties, and they can't be seen as instruments of military domination. In the case of Mrs. Megawati's party, the two most prominent former military officers served as regional commanders but never occupied the highest posts in the military headquarters. . There are few grounds for believing that President Megawati will pave the way for restoring the political power of the armed forces. Her political party was the victim of military repression before 1998. The new president and the military leaders share a common conservatism and suspicion of radical change. Mrs. Megawati is unlikely to embark on a far-reaching program of reform, including reform in the military field. Officers accused of perpetrating human right abuses in the course of carrying out their military duties, whether in East Timor, Aceh or Jakarta, are not likely to be tried. . The army's current military offensive in Aceh and repressive measures against supporters of independence for Irian Jaya will not be halted by Mrs. Megawati. And, most importantly for the military, its business interests are not likely to be disturbed. But this hardly amounts to return of the armed forces to a dominant role in the national government. . The writer, who directs the International Crisis Group's Indonesia Project in Jakarta, contributed this comment to the International Herald Tribune. JAKARTA In the early hours of Monday, July 23, President Abdurrahman Wahid ordered dissolution of the People's Consultative Assembly, which was due to meet that day to dismiss him. But leaders of the armed forces and police refused to obey the order, just as they had rejected his recurring proposal during the previous six months to introduce emergency rule. So Mr. Wahid was unable to prevent the assembly from replacing him that afternoon with the vice president, Megawati Sukarnoputri. At a time when the military is still searching for an appropriate role as a professional force, Mr. Wahid's efforts to gain its support for an emergency decree presented its leaders with a dilemma. Refusal to obey the democratically elected president was clearly an act of insubordination. But obedience would have allied the military with him in his struggle against the democratically elected legislature. . Of course, the military's decision was also influenced by the pragmatic consideration that it did not want to be identified with a political leader whose prospects for survival were declining by the day. . Does the military's defiance of the president indicate that it has abandoned its low profile and intends to reassert itself in the political arena? Many commentators have noted that military leaders became close to Mrs. Megawati in the last year or so, and have predicted that the military will become a major force in her government. . That officers had gravitated toward Mrs. Megawati does not, however, indicate the existence of a special relationship. The military's move toward her was due more to alienation from Mr. Wahid than to confidence in her. The political system is such that the vice president is the only constitutional alternative to an incumbent president. And it was not only military officers who moved toward Mrs. Megawati. Almost the entire political elite and much of the public made the same journey. . Much has been made of the common nationalist outlook of the new president and the armed forces. In particular it has been pointed out that both Mrs. Megawati and the military leaders are committed to preservation of the Indonesian nation. Neither is prepared to countenance the possible departure of either Aceh or Irian Jaya from the republic. But which significant political force in Indonesia, outside those two provinces, advocates their separation? That Mrs. Megawati and the military agree on holding Indonesia together does not create a special bond between them that is not shared by virtually everyone else. A few retired generals hold senior leadership positions in Mrs. Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle. But retired military officers are found in several parties, not only hers. They undoubtedly share some common attitudes; but their primary identity is with their respective parties, and they can't be seen as instruments of military domination. In the case of Mrs. Megawati's party, the two most prominent former military officers served as regional commanders but never occupied the highest posts in the military headquarters. . There are few grounds for believing that President Megawati will pave the way for restoring the political power of the armed forces. Her political party was the victim of military repression before 1998. The new president and the military leaders share a common conservatism and suspicion of radical change. Mrs. Megawati is unlikely to embark on a far-reaching program of reform, including reform in the military field. Officers accused of perpetrating human right abuses in the course of carrying out their military duties, whether in East Timor, Aceh or Jakarta, are not likely to be tried. . The army's current military offensive in Aceh and repressive measures against supporters of independence for Irian Jaya will not be halted by Mrs. Megawati. And, most importantly for the military, its business interests are not likely to be disturbed. But this hardly amounts to return of the armed forces to a dominant role in the national government. . The writer, who directs the International Crisis Group's Indonesia Project in Jakarta, contributed this comment to the International Herald Tribune. JAKARTA In the early hours of Monday, July 23, President Abdurrahman Wahid ordered dissolution of the People's Consultative Assembly, which was due to meet that day to dismiss him. But leaders of the armed forces and police refused to obey the order, just as they had rejected his recurring proposal during the previous six months to introduce emergency rule. So Mr. Wahid was unable to prevent the assembly from replacing him that afternoon with the vice president, Megawati Sukarnoputri. At a time when the military is still searching for an appropriate role as a professional force, Mr. Wahid's efforts to gain its support for an emergency decree presented its leaders with a dilemma. Refusal to obey the democratically elected president was clearly an act of insubordination. But obedience would have allied the military with him in his struggle against the democratically elected legislature. . Of course, the military's decision was also influenced by the pragmatic consideration that it did not want to be identified with a political leader whose prospects for survival were declining by the day. . Does the military's defiance of the president indicate that it has abandoned its low profile and intends to reassert itself in the political arena? Many commentators have noted that military leaders became close to Mrs. Megawati in the last year or so, and have predicted that the military will become a major force in her government. . That officers had gravitated toward Mrs. Megawati does not, however, indicate the existence of a special relationship. The military's move toward her was due more to alienation from Mr. Wahid than to confidence in her. The political system is such that the vice president is the only constitutional alternative to an incumbent president. And it was not only military officers who moved toward Mrs. Megawati. Almost the entire political elite and much of the public made the same journey. . Much has been made of the common nationalist outlook of the new president and the armed forces. In particular it has been pointed out that both Mrs. Megawati and the military leaders are committed to preservation of the Indonesian nation. Neither is prepared to countenance the possible departure of either Aceh or Irian Jaya from the republic. But which significant political force in Indonesia, outside those two provinces, advocates their separation? That Mrs. Megawati and the military agree on holding Indonesia together does not create a special bond between them that is not shared by virtually everyone else. A few retired generals hold senior leadership positions in Mrs. Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle. But retired military officers are found in several parties, not only hers. They undoubtedly share some common attitudes; but their primary identity is with their respective parties, and they can't be seen as instruments of military domination. In the case of Mrs. Megawati's party, the two most prominent former military officers served as regional commanders but never occupied the highest posts in the military headquarters. . There are few grounds for believing that President Megawati will pave the way for restoring the political power of the armed forces. Her political party was the victim of military repression before 1998. The new president and the military leaders share a common conservatism and suspicion of radical change. Mrs. Megawati is unlikely to embark on a far-reaching program of reform, including reform in the military field. Officers accused of perpetrating human right abuses in the course of carrying out their military duties, whether in East Timor, Aceh or Jakarta, are not likely to be tried. . The army's current military offensive in Aceh and repressive measures against supporters of independence for Irian Jaya will not be halted by Mrs. Megawati. And, most importantly for the military, its business interests are not likely to be disturbed. But this hardly amounts to return of the armed forces to a dominant role in the national government. . The writer, who directs the International Crisis Group's Indonesia Project in Jakarta, contributed this comment to the International Herald Tribune.

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