Imparsial: 80 per cent of military businesses illegal

Tempo Interactive – December 24, 2004
Imparsial Program Director Otto Syamsudin (Tempo)
Imparsial Program Director Otto Syamsudin (Tempo)

Jakarta – Around 80 per cent of TNI (armed forces) businesses have no definable assets, in other words they are illegal. These undefined types of businesses are those outside of businesses managed by TNI foundations or economic enterprises which have clearly definable assets.

“Businesses under foundations or economic enterprises are in fact only a small part of the businesses which are managed by the military”, said Indonesian Human Rights Watch (Imparsial) program director Otto Syamsudin Ishak on Thursday December 23.

On the basis of the breath of businesses outside of foundation control, Imparsial’s database manager Otto Pratama says Imparsial rejects the minister of defense Juwono Sudarsono’s idea of taking over TNI businesses and turning them into state owned military enterprises.

The perception that exists at the moment said Pratama, is that the military businesses can be taken over by the state like a normal business. In reality he said, looking at the results of his organisation’s studies, 80 per cent of military businesses have no definable assets, for example where the military provides “backing” for companies. “Businesses such as this cannot be taken over to become state owned enterprises”, he said.

Aside from providing backing, Ishak gave other examples of such illegal businesses which include providing security services for factories and businesses and protection services for [illegal] logging as is done by the military in the conflict areas of Aceh and Poso. According Ishak such illegal businesses which are outside of foundations and economic enterprises are difficult to audit.

Ishak acknowledged that of course those businesses which are under foundations or economic enterprises are far easier to audit. However the businesses which are under foundations managed by the different wings of the military have absolutely never been publicly transparent. “It isn’t known for sure, just how many foundations are under the respective wings [of the military] and how many companies are under these respective foundations”, he said.

He gave an example. Imparsial once conducted a study into foundations owned by the navy. “Just as we had uncovered one navy foundation, suddenly [we found that] the navy had already liquidated 12 [other] foundations. So we are absolutely in the dark about these foundations”, he said.

Ishak says it is difficult to say how much is generated from illegal businesses. Basically, the kind of businesses run by the military are usually linked to companies with foreign capital which are also not transparent. For example he said, the security provided by the military for the petroleum company Exxon Mobil. According to Ishak, Exxon has never transparently declared how much is budgeted for security provided by the TNI.

Responding to Imparsial’s accusations, the head of TNI headquarters public information office, Colonel Ahmad Yani Basuki, said that the TNI as an institution has never condoned illegal businesses as referred to in the Imparsial study. According to Basuki, if there are soldiers who provide backing such as for timber theft this is clearly being done by rogue elements. “So don’t obfuscate what is being done by rogue elements as being official military activities”, he told Tempo last night. According to Basuki, TNI chief General Endriartono Sutarto has already issued written orders prohibiting TNI members from conducting backing of that kind. (Dimas Adityo – Tempo)

[Translated by James Balowski.]