Jokowi accused of misusing intelligence agencies for own political interests

Source – September 16, 2023
President Widodo speaking at ASEAN Summit in Jakarta – Undated (Setpres)

Wahyu Gilang Putranto – The Civil Society Coalition for Security Sector Reform says that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo is misusing the intelligence community for his own political interests.

As has been reported, Widodo made a statement on Saturday September 16 during a national working meeting of the National Secretariat saying that he knows what is going on inside the political parties in Indonesia and what direction they are heading.

"I know internally what the parties are like, I know, the parties. Where they want to go, I also know this."

"The information I received is complete, from my intelligence [agencies], BIN [the State Intelligence Agency], intelligence from Polri [the national police], BIN. Intelligence from the TNI [Indonesian military], I have this, BAIS [the Army's Strategic Intelligence Agency]."

"And information outside of that. Numbers, data, surveys, everything is there. I hold all of it and this only belongs to the president", said Widodo as quoted by Kompas TV.

The Civil Society Coalition for Security Sector Reform is made up of Indonesian Human Rights Watch (Imparsial), the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI), Amnesty International, the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), the Centra Initiative, the Institute for Public Research and Advocacy (Elsam), the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG), the Community Legal Aid Institute (LBH Masyarakat) and the Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy.

"We believe this is a serious problem in the democratic life of Indonesia. This isn't allowed and cannot happen in a democratic country, the president and his intelligence agencies are making the political parties objects and targets of intelligence surveillance", PBHI Chairperson Julius Ibrani said in a written release received by Tribunnews on Saturday.

According to Ibrani, intelligence is indeed a security actor that functions to provide information, especially to the president.

"Nevertheless, intelligence information should be related to enemies of the state (national security issues) and not related to the political community (political parties and so on) as well as civil society as cited under Article 1 Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Law Number 17/2011 on State Intelligence", he said.

Article 1 Paragraph 1 and 2 of Law Number 17/2011 on State Intelligence reads:

Paragraph 1. Intelligence is knowledge, organisation and activities related to the formulation of policies, national strategies and decision making based on the analysis of information and facts collected through methods of work for detection and early warning in the context of prevention, deterrence and control of all threats to national security.

Paragraph 2. State Intelligence is an intelligence provider which is an integral part of the national security system that has the authority to carry out the functions and activities of state intelligence.

"Political and civil society are important elements in democracy so that it is inappropriate and the President may not monitor, tap, oversee them by using intelligence agencies in the political interest of the president", said Ibrani.

Furthermore, the Coalition believes that the president's statement indicates the existence of an abuse of power by using state security tools to carry out control and supervision for political purposes.

"This cannot be justified and represents a threat to democratic life and human rights in Indonesia", he said.

The groups consider this to be a misuse of intelligence for Widodo's political objectives and not for the political purposes of the country.

"In essence, intelligence institutions are formed for and in the interests of national security in achieving the political goals of the state and not for the political goals of the president."

"Data and information collection carried out by intelligence should only be used for policy making purposes, not misused to spy on all the political actors for his personal political interests", he said.

The Coalition also emphasised that this is a political scandal and a serious problem for democracy.

"So it must be thoroughly investigated. Therefore, it is appropriate for the DPR [House of Representatives] to summon the president along with related intelligence agencies to clearly explain this issue to the public", he urged.

Real intent behind statement

Meanwhile, the executive director of the polling institution Indonesian Political Indicator, Burhanuddin Muhtadi, said that it is appropriate for Widodo to know such things because he is the head of state.

What should actually be the focus is what was Widodo's intent in conveying this to the public.

"Actually we're not surprised if the President has complete information related to the [political] parties' direction of movement because the president is the head of state, because the head of government has comprehensive and detailed instruments of power related to the political party movements as well as the instructions that exist under the NKRI [Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia]",.

"In my opinion there certainly must be message that is being sent by the president, particularly for the [political] parties that are not in line with the compass or guidelines he wants", Muhtadi said as quoted in a Kompas TV broadcast.

But for Muhtadi himself, he believes that Widodo's intelligence data may not be entirely accurate. He gave the example of when Widodo announced his vice presidential running mate in the 2019 elections.

"At that time the president's preference was Mahfud MD, but the political parties had a subjective interest that once again showed that not all political parties followed the president's directions, because they had different electoral interests, which may or may not be in line with the interests of the president", explained Muhtadi.

This confirms that there are political parties playing roles that may not be in line with the data held by the president.

"Moreover, the movement of the political parties is very dynamic, this movement is not a day by day, but second by second, so what is heard by the president a few seconds ago may no longer be accurate right now", continued Muhtadi.

Meanwhile his target may not just be the heads of the political parties, but rather the presidential and vice presidential candidates who will step forward in the 2024 elections.

As is known, Widodo wants a continuation of the national leadership, especially in facing the demographic bonus that is only 13 years away. In addition to this, the other thing that Widodo wanted to convey though the statement was a warning to those that are involved in political maneuvering.

"I think this is part of a signal being sent by the president that he has sharp eyes and ears with which to find out the parties' movements in relation to the map of the coalitions ahead of 2024", said Muhtadi.

But whether or not this information is accurate or not, that is another matter.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Koalisi Masyarat Sipil Tuding Jokowi Salah Gunakan Intelijen soal Pernyataan 'Tahu Dalamnya Partai'".]