Army will step in if the elections turn bloody

Kompas – December 23, 2003
TNI-AD chief of staff General Ryamizard Ryacudu (Tribune)
TNI-AD chief of staff General Ryamizard Ryacudu (Tribune)

Jakarta – The TNI-AD (the army) sincerely hopes that the 2004 elections will proceed safely, smoothly and orderly. TNI-AD has no wish for the festival of democracy, which will be crucial in determining the course of the nation for at least the next five years, to turn bloody as a result of conflict between the children of the nation for the sake of the ambitions of certain groups. If this happens, TNI-AD will step in to prevent the disintegration of the nation as a result of disputes and loss of blood between the nation’s people.

This was elaborated by TNI-AD chief of staff General Ryamizard Ryacudu in his speech as the ceremonial inspector on Juang Kartika day which was commemorated on a large scale in Jakarta on Monday December 22.

Speaking to journalists after the ceremony which involved around 15,000 troops – including 10 raider battalions which have just been inaugurated – he reiterated his statement on the deployment of TNI-AD if the 2004 elections turn bloody.

“The elections are a festival of democracy and it will be safeguarded by the people themselves. If [however] it tends towards a disruption to security and public order, the police will be deployed and we will assist the police. But if there is an intent to divide the nation, if there are human rights violations and killing, the military must also be deployed. The military does not want this country to become divided and [people] to start killing each other”, said Ryacudu.

When asked if the involvement and deployment of the army if the 2004 election turn bloody also includes the possibility of seizing power (a coup d’eta), Ryacudu explained that it would not. “It won’t go that far. It’s not like that. TNI-AD has no [such] aspirations. What’s all this about a take over. That’s just the talk of people who want to bring down the military. There’s nothing like that going on”, said Ryacudu in a shrill voice.

In relation to the elections, in his speech Ryacudu reminded all army officers to maintain their neutrality. “We do not want the festival of democracy to turn bloody where there is a clash between the nation’s children for the sake of the ambitions of certain groups. I remind all TNI-AD officers to stay neutral. Don’t stain TNI-AD’s [image] by not being neutral in the elections”, he said.

Responding to Ryacudu’s statement, political observer Edy Prasetyono from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said that there are two things which could be meant by the army chief’s statement, which he referred to as that political statement. Firstly, the substance of the statement. Secondly, the connotation of the political statement.

“In terms of its substance, the concern that the 2004 elections will turn bloody cannot be ignored even though the possibly of this [happening] is extremely small. We must understand the TNI’s way of thinking which always employs the worse case scenario in order to be able to understand this statement”, said Prasetyono who was contacted overnight.

Possibility of coup d’eta small

Because the small possibility that the 2004 elections will tern bloody as disclosed by Ryacudu, Prasetyono is absolutely certain that the military will not carry out a coup d’eta or seize power because the cost would be too high.

“Moreover the military cannot ignore international pressure if a coup d’eta is carried out. The public are also still traumatised by the past when the military dominated [the country]. The possibility [of this happening] is extremely small because of this two pressures”, he said.

Prasetyono said that although in terms of its substance the statement is quite proper, he questioned the connotations of the political statement issued by Ryacudu.

“This statement could create confusion within the TNI [armed forces] itself, which as a state institution is not permitted to enter into political territory. Should then political statements [such as this] be issued by an institution which according to legislation is not permitted to enter into political territory? Political statements of this kind should be issued by the political authority which makes use of the military as [one of] its institutions, not by the military [itself]”, explained Prasetyono.

During the ceremony to commemorate Juang Kartika day which represents the founding and the birth of the TNI, TNI chief General Endriartono Sutarto failed to attend. National police chief General Da’I Bachtiar who was invited to the commemoration also did not attend.

Those who did attend were navy chief of staff Laksamana Bernard Kent Sondakh, airforce chief of staff Marsekal Chappy Hakim and almost all of the retired army chiefs of staff. This ceremony appears to have become a big event for TNI-AD to demonstrate its growing strength.

During the ceremony, the largest in the TNI’s history, with great pride Ryacudu elaborated on the heroic event Palagan Ambarawa, which occurred on December 15, 1945, which is now commemorated as Juang Kartika day.

“At that time, the [founding president of Indonesia] Sukarno was in jail, the government was paralysed, and [the former colonial power] Holland and its military threatened to return to power in Indonesia. The TNI, under the leadership of General Soedirman demonstrated its existence heroically. With elementary weaponry, the TNI together with ordinary people were able to resist the attack and maintain the integrity of the nation and state”, he explained.

Learning from the Palangan Ambarawa incident, Ryacudu explained that there is no longer any need for a dichotomy between the public and the military. What exists is a unity of the TNI and the people which must be conserved forever. “There is an imperative to build the unity of the TNI and the people. That is the spirit of TNI-AD . Separating TNI-AD from the people is an effort to bring down the nation and the state”, he said.

Ten raider battalions

On this occasion, Ryacudu also officiated the formation of 10 raider battalions which are going to be deployed at a number of regional military commands (Kodam). The formation of the 10 raider battalions, who have three times the capacity of an infantry battalion, represents the implementation and desire on the part of TNI-AD to build up its forces. According to Ryacudu, the policy to form these battalions which are being prepared to confront a protracted war represents a mandate [of the nation].

“This country must maintain its existence. I [want to] explain that the formation of these 10 raider battalions represents an urgent need to take preventative measures and actions against the country’s enemies. The raider battalions have been readied to conduct a protracted war against aggressor states. [Furthermore,] TNI-AD is capable of funding the formation of these special troops itself, with out assistance from other states”, he said.

The formation of these special troops on such a large scale represents a strategy by TNI-AD to overcome the weakness of the modern armaments which TNI-AD currently has. “These represent the largest [single formation] of special troops in the world. Of course it [may seem to be] too many, but they are needed to compensate for our armed forces which have been left behind by the militaries of foreign states”, he elaborated.

For their first assignment, three raider battalions will be immediately sent to Aceh to participate in the military operation. According to plans, these three battalions will depart for Aceh next week to replace troops which have already finished there tour of duty in Aceh.

The ten raider battalions which have been formed are Infantry Battalion (Yonif) Kodam I Bukit Barisan (100 troops), Yonif Kodam II Sriwijaya (200 troops), Yonif Kodam III Siliwangi (300 troops), Yonif Kodam IV Diponegoro (400 troops), Yonif Kodam V Brawijaya (500 troops), Yonif Kodam VI Tanjungpura (600 troops), Yonif Kodam VII Wirabuana (700 troops), Yonif Kodam IX Udayana (900 troops), Yonif 13/1/Kostrad (323 troops) and Yonif 6/2/Kostrad (412 troops). (INU)

[Translated by James Balowski]