Jakarta – The recent actions by members of the TNI (Indonesian military) arriving at the offices of law enforcement institutions raises questions about the authority that is actually held by the military.
On July 28 a group from the TNI Military Police Headquarters (Puspom TNI) visited the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) building in South Jakarta. Then on August 6 scores of personnel from the Bukit Barisan Kodam I (regional military command) arrived at the Medan Metropolitan District Police (Polrestabes) in Medan, North Sumatera.
In both cases this was related to legal proceedings being handled by law enforcement agencies.
In the case of the KPK, the TNI personnel arrived after the head of the Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas), First Marshal Henri Alfiandi, was declared a suspect in case of alleged bribery. This ended with KPK leaders making an apology and agreeing that the case should be handled by a military court.
At the Medan Metropolitan District Police, TNI Major Dedi Hasibuan brought a group of soldiers to meet with the head of the criminal investigation unit Police Commander Teuku Fathir Mustafa. Their request that a suspect in a case of land document forgery identified by the initials ARH be released was granted.
Hasibuan did this because of his status as ARH's attorney, and as it turns out because he is also a relative of ARH. In other words, Hasibuan was an active TNI who was acting as a lawyer for a civilian.
Institute for Security and Strategic Studies (ISESS) military observer Khairul Fahmi believes that the actions by these TNI officers in descending en masse on law enforcement agencies is inappropriate and sets a bad example for the public.
According to Fahmi, this is a form of intervention in an ongoing legal process.
"I still see the actions of the TNI soldiers visiting the Medan Polrestabes as a form of arrogance, (verbal) intimidation and intervention at the same time", Fahmi told CNN Indonesia on Tuesday August 8.
Fahmi criticised Hasibuan's actions in giving legal assistance to the suspect saying that TNI soldiers who provide legal aid to suspects are also required to pay attention to applicable norms.
Fahmi outlined the guidelines for organising legal assistance which is regulated through the TNI Commander Decree Number KEP/1089/XII/2017. Aside from family members and a number of other categories, those who have a working relationship in the context of supporting the main tasks of the TNI can also receive legal assistance.
"This final category is very loose and can be a loophole for the presence of bad practices in providing legal assistance by the TNI", said Fahmi.
It should not be an attempt to request the release of a suspect by means of descending en masse. He is concerned that if this is granted by police, this situation could inspire people who are caught up in criminal cases to carry out similar actions.
"They could use similar means to fight for justice and conversely to release suspects from detention. Including by asking for legal assistance from the TNI", he said.
Speaking separately, Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI) Chairperson Julius Ibrani considers the actions committed by the TNI officers are not in accordance with professionalism and the principle of obedience.
Therefore firm action should be taken and if not, Ibrani said that similar incidents could occur again.
"Lest Satpol PP [Public Order Agency] be descended on, or who else later. Because a president such as this is not acted on seriously", said Ibrani when contacted.
Ibrani also views the actions by the TNI officers as obstruction of justice. He explained that investigators adhere to the principle of pro-justitia so all forms of disruption, obstacles and obstruction can be subject to criminal charges.
"Whether it's done by rogue TNI [officers], rogue civilians, it's all the same", said Ibrani. "It must also be examined by the Puspom TNI. There were violations of professionalism and principal duties. It must be acted on firmly" he added.
Betrayal of reformasi
Ibrani believes that such actions clearly conflict with and are a betrayal of the mandate of reformasi – referring to the political reform process that began in 1998.
Reformasi mandates there are limits related to the principle tasks and functions (tupoksi) of the TNI in military war operations and military operations other than war.
"Clearly besieging [a law enforcement agency] and obstructing the legal process is not the tupoksi of TNI members. And this is not according with the doctrine of soldiers who speak about professionalism, discipline, obeying the law and so on", said Ibrani.
Nevertheless, Ibrani also said that the limits on the principle tasks and functions of the TNI in military-civilian relations is not yet clear and revisions are need to the legislative stipulations in Indonesia.
"Because there are no limitations, models of intervention such as this still occur. We still have a lot of homework in the future. Starting with military justice, we must settle the separation of civil and military space, then also revisions to the TNI Law that clarify war and non-war operations", he said.
CNN Indonesia contacted the head of the TNI Information Center Rear Admiral Julius Widjojono to answer criticisms about the TNI's recent actions. He stated that this had already been explained on several occasions by TNI Commander Marshal Yudo Margono.
Last week Margono shrugged off criticism that the TNI had not changed since reformasi. This was conveyed by Margono when asked about the handling of the corruption cases at Basarnas which has ensnared two active TNI officers.
Initially, Margono asked the public not to worry about how crimes by soldiers are handled in military courts. He asked those who say that military justice is a means to maintain impunity for soldiers to prove their statements.
"Show me where the impunity is that's received by TNI soldiers, if they're in the wrong, an investigation will certainly be carried out and they'll be punished in accordance with legislation", said Margono after opening the TNI Commander Cup 2023 at the TNI Headquarters in East Jakarta on Friday August 4.
He explained that in handling criminal acts committed by soldiers, they refer to Law Number 31/1997 on Military Courts.
If there are parties who are doubtful about handling the case, he invited them to follow the investigation conducted by the TNI Military Police Headquarters. Margono asked that the public not continually accuse the TNI of being a product of the New Order.
"Let's see what the prison [sentences] are like, what the investigation is like. So don't always say we're a product of the New Order, we're all a product of the New Order. Whether we admit it or not, we're all a products of the New Order, because indeed we all went through it at that time", said Margono.
Meanwhile on the incident at the Medan Metropolitan District Police, Margono said that it was inappropriate and stated that he has already ordered the military police to question the soldiers.
"I have ordered the Denpom TNI [Military Police Detachment] to directly question the. I've already ordered it, later we will question them", he said. (rzr/bmw)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Fenomena TNI Geruduk KPK & Polisi, Cermin Arogansi Para Serdadu".]