Seminar on “Indonesian Military Reforms: A Reflection 20 Years Later”

In this seminar, General Agus Widjojo shared about the challenges to preserve the results of Indonesian military reform that have been championed for over 20 years.

Indonesia Studies Programme

Thursday, 28 November 2019 – After the downfall of President Suharto, a reform to abolish dual-functions of the military as a defence and a socio-political force has become a prominent agenda within the military. ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute invited the Governor of Indonesian National Resilience Institute General Agus Widjojo, as one of the reform initiators, to discuss the challenges to preserve some of the results of military reform that have been championed for over 20 years.

General (Ret.) Agus Widjojo (right) gave an insightful lecture about Indonesian military reform. Dr Siwage Dharma Negara moderated the session. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Gen Widjojo explained the underlying military reform was to purify the role of the Indonesian military (TNI) based on the constitution and to pull the military away from politics by dividing the mission with the police. In concrete terms, this reform aims to end TNI’s involvement in politics and return military power to its fundamental function as a national defender of external threats. Initiated within the TNI, this reform had strategic value to support the civilian government to conduct the democratization process. After 20 years, the military reform has shown progress through the establishment of joint operational commands and the enhancement of joint-command doctrines.

Nevertheless, although TNI has terminated some of its dual-function systems, Gen Widjojo admitted that it has yet to be fully implemented due to the lack of political will and abusive civilian power. He also foresaw that money politics, corruption, and the influence of political Islam remained to be prominent challenges even after 20 years. To conclude, Gen Widjojo listed down the challenges of the reform, including lack of public awareness concerning the role of the military in a democratic country as well as public mistrust to the other institutions than the TNI.

During the Q & A session, some members of audience addressed questions on the implication of the appointment of military men in the cabinet as well as the role of Muhammadiyah and Nahdatul Ulama in counter-terrorism agenda, the trend of military family’s involvement in extremism, and Jokowi’s priorities in his second term and its implication to the reform.

Some of the audience at the seminar. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)