Lieutenant-General Kiki Syahnakri is a former WAKASAD (TNI-AD Deputy Chief of Staff)
Interview made on August 2002, by Philippe RAGGI, Académie Internationale de Géopolitique, France).
1. The TNI will soon have a new head, what do you think of it, in particular regarding to the discussions on the fact that the future Panglima should be from AD or from AU ?
For me, whether the next TNI chief is from the Army is not an issue. The most important things is that he meets the criteria.
First on the list is that he must be capable and has access necessary to face current challenges, namely:
- The solution to the problems in Aceh, Irian and Maluku.
- Continue with the reform process.
- Maintain solidarity within the TNI.
2. You will reach soon the retirement limit, how do you consider your future? Will you remain in the Army if we proposed to you to extend your active command ? and why ?
I have a farm land in West Java (he had his first harvest of strawberry early this month!)
An extension of my service will not be a problem. As a soldier I must be ready to take up any task entrusted on me as long as it is in the interest of the nation and state.
3. If you must leave TNI, do you think like many Generals (Ret.) entering in politics ?
I'm not interested.
4. When you see few Generals put in examination concerning the Timor case, and the request of several NGO demanding the accusation on top military commanders, from which distance in this point are we from Justice and from Politics ?
I personally want a judicial approach, not a political approach. But the issue is highly politicized. Take for example the U.S. insistence that certain generals be implicated in the trial of those accused of human rights abuses in East Timor. If the law finds them not guilty, how can we conviction them? This (American pressure) for Indonesia to punish the generals is a political maneuver. It is a U.S. target (aim) to have certain generals convicted in the East Timor trial. It is not fair especially if the law does not find them guilty. It's an American ambivalence. On the one hand they want to help TNI, the police, by providing equipment, but dictates that the aid be used to hunt for terrorist of their choice. We cannot use the aid for things other than that. The U.S. argues that it is concerned about the possible human rights violations by the TNI and police if their aid is used for purposes other than the war on terrorists. But in 1998, for example, it asked TNI and police to help protect its citizens; there was no question about TNI or police committing human rights violation in doing so as long as its citizens were safe.
5. To who soldier has to obey initially ? To his direct seniors officers ? To the higher heads of the TNI ? To the directives of the Government? The question could arise in some remote provinces of your country.
Chain of command is a universal issue. There is hierarchy, for example, a platoon must follow the order of its platoon commander, a company must obey its company commander and so on up to the central government. An abuse of the chain of command could be fatal. Take for example the 1965 Sept. 30 communist coup (involving the military). It's true that in reality, sometimes you cannot strictly follow the chain of command. For example, a platoon of A Company in an area of operation happens to be closer to a battalion commander than to his company commander. The platoon commander then reports to the battalion commander and follows his order, assuming that the battalion commander knows the area better than the company commander. On the other hand, the battalion commander must inform the company commander of the situation. Abusing the chain of command by taking direct order from those other than your immediate superior could prove fatal, as had happened in 1965.
Abuse of the chain of command is usually political and happened when TNI was heavily involved in politics. As a consequence, politics placed a close grip on TNI. There is still some politicking within TNI but only at a very small level.
6. How should be work the articulation between the practical military necessities (to restore order and thus to use the force) and the respect of the human rights ?
Universally there is a law that governs armed conflicts, the humanitarian law. Every country has it according to the types of threat they face. In Indonesia we have the emergency law that regulates the military's involvement in dealing with (armed) threats. On a lower level, there are rules of engagement. On practical level there are directives, such as the one made for troops sent to Aceh, how to conduct patrol, how to help the police etc. Apart from that there are sets of procedures to ensure that troops do not commit human rights violations. In fact, all the regulations, guidelines, directives and procedures help troops achieve their goals without violating the law.
Casualties cannot be avoided in any military operation. That is why we have all those regulations and guidelines etc. However, we cannot avoid violations; it is something that is unavoidable, even for a country like the U.S. The important thing is to remain committed to upholding the law and then we can eliminate the possibility of a violation.
7. In Aceh, the most Western province of Indonesia where a secessionist armed force (the GAM) faces the TNI, the situation seems to be better since last year (less civilian involved, less killed soldiers). Which is the reason ? Is this in relation with the implementation of a new regional military command (Iskandar Muda), or to a "sociocultural approach", or to other reasons?
It's true that the social approach in Aceh has contributed to the improvement of conditions there. However, the most important factor that has helped is serious efforts to improve the characters of TNI troops sent to Aceh.
Regarding the Iskandarmuda military command (Kodam), it is obvious that for the military, a command system is better than a coordination system. Aceh has two Korem (military district commands), Lilawangsa and Teuku Umar. Previously they were under the coordination of the Bukit Barisan military command in Medan. It is more effective to have a command in Aceh to have direct control and supervision.
Acehnese are proud of their Kodam. It was the Acehnese who proposed the reinstatement of the Iskandarmuda military command. It was a genuine proposal from the grassroots. They preferred to have their own (military) commander instead of someone from North Sumatra. They are a people with pride and dignity.
8. Some observators or commentators says that some high rank soldiers (active or retired) are behind the events of Maluku. They would organize the disorder not only to be placed - them and the military - in a position of recourse, but also to back in echo to the attacks which undergoes former President Suharto and his familly in front of justice. What do you think of these criticisms?
I don't see involvement of TNI high-ranking officers in Maluku. I think it's being politicized.
On the other hand, there are TNI members who are involved as individuals, which is understandable. In this era of reform, many people violate the law, the regulations and ethics. Members of the military too are not immune from this deviation and despite their pledge of allegiance, they are drawn to sectarian issues. There are individuals, small units, under the influence of narrow sectarian solidarity which is based on religious and ethnic interests, who are involved in Maluku. It is understandable, especially when they come from Maluku. They see their fathers, brothers, uncles killed by the other (ethnic and religious) groups. The emotional ties is the reason behind their involvement. That's why I agree with your article, although it was a bit late. Fortunately the TNI leadership has taken firm actions against members who are involved in the conflict, even dismiss them, although it a bit late. Cilangkap (TNI Headquarters) is the one to have made the decision.
9. Certain observers, like Van Zorge Associates, say that the TNI is crossed by three main factions : the conservatives, the activists and the hard liners. Do you recognize yourselves in one of these factions ? What could you say to us on the various factions existing within indonesian military institution ?
I wouldn't make that type of classification. What you mean by hardliners are probably those who want radical changes while the conservatives want normative changes. I think this better explains the existing groupings. After all, who doesn't want changes? Everybody in TNI wants to change. If you will, the radicals are people like Saurip Kadi or the late Agus Wirahadikusumah. But they are considered opportunists. Existing groupings are a legacy of TNI's past involvement in politics; they are remnants of past times, when TNI was still involved in politics. As I have said many times, if TNI enters politics, politics too will penetrate it, making it a rainbow-colored (colorful) organization. The damage did not end there because it created various color grouping -- the red-and-white group, the green, white, brown camps, this and that groups, all affected the recruitment process and career development of affected members. As a result, the merit system did not work, as officers relied on their (political) alliances for the advancement of their career. This in turn caused damage on TNI's professionalism, a decline in competence from the top to the lowest level. This legacy cannot just be removed in a year or two. Political considerations still play a role in recruitment and placement of officers. The situation is made worse by politicians who continue "recruiting" TNI officers for their own benefits. This has hampered consolidation efforts.
Given this condition, I would classify the TNI into professionals and opportunists.
There are indications of the professionals becoming stronger. Take for example the recruitment system at the Army Staff and Command College (Seskoad). Recruitment of students (under Suadi Atma) was professionally done and the result is better and better graduates . When I was colonel, there were no one who passed with flying colors; even those with Bs were fewer and fewer until the average scores were between 0 and 39. Slowly, with the improvement in the recruitment process, the results have also improved. We have started to see Bs once again, even As, because officers have come to realize that they must really study to pass. Political connection will not help any longer.
The college (under Suadi Atma) also changed the exam process. It is common knowledge that students used to get the answers before the exam. It is not the case anymore because Suadi arranged for students in different parts of the country to do the exam simultaneously. For example, those in Papua begin at 9 a.m., others in Central Indonesia at 8 a.m. and the rest in Western part of the country at 7 a.m. That way, they cannot contact each other for answers as they previously did.
Suadi also prepared five batches of questions and would only make a call to decide which one would be used at the last minute. It is a challenge for students to study well. I think this is an example of the professionals getting a stronger footing.
Apart from that, the Army Headquarters introduced a new promotion process. It will delay or even cancel a promotion if the concerned officer is recommended by outsiders. Everybody within the Army is fully supportive of this new system. That way, officers are free from political/outside interference. They don't feel they owe someone for their promotion and have to pay back one day.
10. Do you Think that the political system dissociating the President on one part and the executive on the other (entrusted to a Prime Minister, like in France) is the good one for Indonesia ? and which would be for you the best system regarding History, specificity and traditions of your country ?
Frankly speaking, I'm not really knowledgeable in this area.
It may be a good idea to separate the powers. We once had a prime minister (Sjahrir). Neither the dual system nor the presidential system have been fully tested in Indonesia. Under Pak Harto the (presidential) government worked more effectively than it does today. Before Soeharto governments came and went due to highly intensive political disturbances. During Pak Harto it was effective but lacked control. However, the insufficient (weak) control (balance in power) was more a result of a weak system and the regulations that gave too much power to the government, and not because it was a presidential system (power concentrated in one institution/person). I personally believe we must first review the regulations. What is happening today is a return to the situation in the 1950s, when people placed their personal and group interests above state and national interests. There are fewer people who are really thinking about national interests; rather, they place their political interests above all else.
Federalism is not the answer to the problem of separatism. It is TNI's concern to safeguard the integrity of the nation and state. Separatism is not the only issue that is threatening the country. Federalism can encourage regions that are otherwise content to join the demand for separation from the republic and create more trouble spots besides Aceh and Irian.
11. Do you think that the answer to the various separatist/secessionists disorders which shake Indonesia, could be the implementation of a Federal State ? and why?
Even with regional autonomy have had problems. Surabaya and Pasuruan in East Java, for example, are locked in a dispute over clean water. It nearly erupted into a conflict.
When I was Udayana military command, I was asked to speak at a seminar on regional autonomy at Udayana University in Denpasar. As a military officer, I presented a military point of view and focused on the security aspects. Then, I said regional autonomy could trigger new conflicts due to imbalances in natural resources. East Kalimantan, Riau and Irian, for example, generate different (more) regional incomes that other less rich provinces.
As a result, there will be flows of people from the poor regions to the rich provinces. Batam is an example. It lures people of various ethnic groups across Indonesia, from Batak people to Flores people, they fight each other and it is difficult to manage them. This kind of exodus can create inter-ethnic conflicts and could threaten national solidarity. So you see, even regional autonomy is creating a lot of problems, you can imagine if Indonesia becomes a federal state. Regional autonomy can also cause tensions over border areas. The fact is, borders between regions are a legacy of the old kingdoms and many of the bordering regions are religious and ethnic borders or a combination of both. Take Central and West Java, for example.
West Java is Sundanese, while Central Java is Javanese. Or Bali, in the east it borders East Java, a predominantly Muslim province while Bali itself is Hindunese. To the west it borders West Nusa Tenggara, which is a mix of Hindu (minority) and Muslim (majority). Border conflicts can therefore lead to ethnic or religious conflicts. So I think a federal system will not solve the problem; on the contrary, it will only augment the problem. At least for the time being, given the ethnic and religious conflicts, we are not ready for a federal system.
12. Do the TNI, spinal column and spinal cord of the country, have to give up the principle of the dwi-fungsi ? and why ? How the Army can start a reform without giving up what makes its specificity in the indonesian society ?
May be we need to define Dwifungsi before discussing it. If Dwifungsi means TNI's involvement in politics, then yes, nearly all of us agree to abandon politics (for active officers) and it is already agreed that TNI abandon politics in 2004.
On the other hand, if Dwifungsi refers to its initial concept, that it is a social function/role and not a political one, every military organization in the world has a social function/role. Looking back, it was not until 1986 that TNI adopted the political role as stipulated in Catur Darma Eka Karya (Cadek 1986 doctrine); previously, Dwifungsi was limited to social role.
It is too bad if military is not allowed to or cannot serve its social function/role. Even the U.S. military has a social role, for example in their operations other than war, such as civic missions. The original Dwifungsi concept was limited to civic missions, only later it developed to include politics.
To abandon politics is our commitment.
13. Still about Dwi-fugsi, according to you which is the smallest level where the TNI thrue the territorial military command must be present? The village, the under district, the district, the regency, the province ?
Even our observers are mixed up, they cannot differentiate between territorial organization/command and territorial functions. The territorial command is an organization that serves, among other things, to perform TNI's territorial functions. As an organization, it can change, but territorial function, like a social function, is the same in every country. Since its birth, TNI has performed a territorial function. In order to defend the country's independence, people formed TKR (Tentara Kemanan Rakyat/People's Security Force), which later changed to TRI (Tentara Republik Indonesia/the Armed Forces of the Republic of Indonesia). That means TNI drew its sources from communities, the people, who were concerned with defense and security matters. In its development, it became an organized armed forces and developed a tactic called wehrkreise with TNI as the core element. There developed a synergy between TNI and the people, the latter supplied information, logistics and even additional manpower to the troops. This could only happen because of good relationship between the people and TNI.
After the 1950s, TNI had to face armed rebellions and continued to rely on the concept of wehrkreise, although the name Kodam was not yet used. However, the principle was basically the same, we had bintara (non-commissioned officer) attached to district offices. Today they are called Wanra (Perlawanan Rakyat/People's Defense) whose role was to gather information. Just before the 1965 communist coup, Pak Yani (Army chief of staff) improved the system and restored Koramil (subdistrict military command) at district levels. At that time TNI already had military regional commands (Kodam), military resort command (Korem) and military district command (Kodim).
At the time, the objective of the territorial organizational structure was to fend off the growing influence of the communists. There were cases of communist attacks, such as the famous Bandar Betsy incident. The territorial bodies were needed to protect the people from communist attacks/influence.
During the New Order government, the territorial concept was maintained because it was felt necessary. However, the aim had shifted and it was needed to safeguard national development and the situation had become more complicated than before. The territorial bodies then served to manage public potentials for defense purposes. In industry, for example, every country has a defense industry. In Japan, the automotive industry is tasked with producing component for armored cars and other tactical vehicles. One day, when the need arises, the automotive industry can be switched immediately into a defense industry. The transport/communications sector, too, can contribute to national defense. Take Singapore as an example, it built a highway that can also function as a military runway in times of emergency.
As for Indonesia, we have, for example, Miangas Island in Sangir Talaud, North Sulawesi. It is the country's northern most part. We need the island as a surveillance post. Our aircraft cannot reach Miangas without refueling. Besides, the pilots too need to rest after several hours of air surveillance mission. In this context, the Sam Ratulangi airport in Manado needs to be upgraded so it can accommodate F-16 aircraft. Or, we need an airstrip in Miangas that can handle a Hercules transport plane.
It is not TNI's job to upgrade the airports, but we can, through the ministry of defense, propose to the ministry of transportation to do it for defense purposes.
These are the things TNI do to manage national defense potentials and these are the things covered by TNI's territorial function. So it is important to differentiate between territorial function and territorial organization
As for the territorial commands, we did not have Kodam or Koramil or Kodim (territorial organizations) during the revolution period, but TNI's territorial function worked. During the revolution for independence, battalions were recognized by the names of their commanders, for example, Battalion Nasuhi (led by Nasuhi), Battalion Wirahadikusumah (led by Wirahadikusuah), Battalion A. Yani etc, each performing the territorial role well.
Today, we don't have the money to replace the territorial organizations to safeguard our territory. If they are dissolved, who will safeguard the country?
On the other hand, we must not reject the possibility of its dissolution one day. According to a research on TNI's territorial organization carried out by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) in 2000, 75 percent of respondents said TNI's territorial organization was still needed while the other 25 agreed for its liquidation. However, it must be noted that the 75 percent respondents came from low- and middle-income groups, while the remaining 25 came from high income group. With time, as Indonesia prospers, the percentage of people with better income and education will increase and one day 75 percent of them may demand the disbandment of TNI's territorial organization. It takes more than a decade to arrive at such a percentage. So I don't agree if the territorial organization is dissolved now. At the moment, it is more important to reorganize it and return it to the original concept, which is to tap on public potentials for defense purposes.
14. The KOSTRAD is an eminently specific unit in Indonesia according to you, the nomination in Pangkostrad should necessarily require which precise criteria regarding the strategical position, and also necessarily" political ", of the KOSTRAD?
A Kostrad chief (Pangkostrad) must be a man with a proven field track record, who understands the need to coordinate all the units under his command. Kostrad is an inter-discipline, inter-departmental (inter-divisional) force and a Pangkostrad must understand the characteristics of each division (unit), how to forge synergy among the different divisions. (what he means is that there is the infantry, the cavalry, the engineer and other various division, each with their own needs and responsibility).
15. The KOSTRAD had been involved in financial embezzlements before Ryakudu Command. How this kind of things can happen in a elite unit which must have executives having an elite morality ?
I don't really know why, but maybe because of (involvement in) politics. But under Ryamizard, the funds were well used to improve professionalism and welfare. Improving professionalism through training is the best form of welfare a leader can give to his troops because when troops are well-trained, they perform well in conflict areas (battles) and return home alive. Training, is therefore the highest form of welfare for troops, and Kostrad under Ryamizard did that, used the funds to train the troops.
16. Does the current TNI have, according to you, sufficient human ressources, materials and budget to achieve its mission under best the conditions? What would be necessary for that ?
TNI lacks in all the things you mention, human resources, materials, budget. For example, the budget for training covers only one-thirtieth of the actual requirement. We need sufficient budget to improve the quality of our human resources through better training, the necessary equipment to assist troops in carrying out their tasks.
17. What sort of resources such a vast country like Indonesia could set up to fight against terrorism ?
The people are the most important asset in the fight against terrorism. Terrorism can survive if it is supported by the people. The people must therefore be involved in the fights against terrorism, TNI alone cannot do it.
18. Pancasila does not privilege a religion rather than another, just like the Constitution of 1945 say. What should be, according to you, the place of Islam in the indonesian nation on the one hand and the political life in the other hand, this regarding to the talks on the Jakarta Chapter (these seven words crossed out during the development of the 1945 Constitution, and relating to Islam) ?
TNI's ideology is the ideology of the state and the state ideology is Pancasila. TNI is committed to maintaining the commitment of the Indonesian people and to preserving the diversity of the people. Pancasila is therefore the best answer, there is no place for extremism, be it left or right.
19. Is the relationship between Indonesia and France, according to you, satisfactory in the current situation ? Which would be the specific fields of cooperation which you would wish to see developing between our two countries?
Indonesia-French relations are not yet satisfactory, in my view. France has one of the most modern military in the world, both in terms of skills and equipment. Indonesia could have learned more from France. Maybe through an exchange of students, for example to Seskoad, or joint exercises, or joint exercises for the special forces like the one we have with several countries, including Thailand.
20. Following Leahy amendement, since 1999 the USA cannot provide Indonesia in military hardware is it an " opportunity " to diversify your hardware and for example to treat with countries like France?
Leahy or no Leahy, Indonesia must diversify its hardware.
21. What do you think of the French Military and its soldiers? Do you appreciate some of its chiefs, present or passed, and who ?
I don't really know about your military except for General Charles de Gaulle.
22. Thanks a lot General for your time and your kindness.