The TNI are not soldiers for hire: Endriartono

Kompas – November 12, 2003
Endriartono Sutarto and President Megawati Sukarnoputri (tamaraberg)
Endriartono Sutarto and President Megawati Sukarnoputri (tamaraberg)

Jakarta – TNI (armed forces) chief General Endriartono Sutarto has asserted that the TNI are not soldiers for hire. Therefore if there are companies which need security services, the companies concerned do not have a contract with the TNI, but with the government.

This statement was made by the TNI chief during a working meeting with Commission I of the People’s Representative Assembly (DPR) at the national parliament on Tuesday November 11 in Jakarta. The meeting was presided over by Commission chairperson Ibrahim Ambong from the Golkar Party fraction.

“Certainly, companies want to take responsibility for public money which is being spent. Because of this, they want to have a contractual agreement with the TNI. But, if it’s like that, doesn’t that then mean that the TNI are soldiers for hire”, said Endriartono.

If a company wants to pay for TNI’s security services, this should not mean that the companies are paying the TNI but rather they are paying the state. “If they want to pay, then pay the government. The TNI is already paid by the state”, he explained.

It was also explained that the presence of the TNI at vital installations is actually based on a decision issued by the government. By withdrawing units from vital installations, it is hoped that the rotation of soldiers can be better regulated in order to give soldiers time to rest.

DPR Commission I member from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle fraction, Permadi, asked the TNI chief not to be emotional in responding to foreign companies which are interested in renting the TNI for security services at vital installations. Permadi’s assessment was that the TNI’s role in protecting vital installation is still greatly needed. He was concerned that if the TNI suddenly withdrew troops, vital installations which provide large amounts of foreign exchange earnings for the state will be disrupted.

Furious with the FBI

At yesterday’s meeting, Endriartono also expressed his disappointment with foreign parties who keep trying to link the Timika case with the TNI. In the August 31 attack at Timika, West Papua, two US citizens and an Indonesian died.

According to Endriartono, the TNI purposely invited the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to join in the investigation. However the FBI has instead been going around stating that the TNI has not given them access to the Timika investigation.

“I am angry with Ambassador Boyce (the US ambassador for Indonesia, Ralph L. Boyce). I say, call the FBI in again. But don’t hope that I will meet with him. If the TNI is involved, [in the Timika case] feel free [to investigate]. I will give access to any place. But I ask one thing, I don’t want to meet [with Boyce] again because I feel I have been insulted”, said the TNI chief firmly, adding that this position is only for the sake of the good name and national respect [of the country].

For the sake of TNI’s professionalism

Separately, army chief of staff General Ryamizard Ryacudu stated that the TNI’s suggestion to the government to transfer the role of security at the 16 vital institutions to the management of the companies and the police force was only for the sake of improving their professionalism within the system of national defense, to confront military threats. The TNI is ready to withdraw three battalions which have to date had a special role at the 16 vital installations.

This readiness to withdraw three TNI battalions from these vital installations was explained by Ryamizard after a graduation ceremony of retired high ranking army officers and the commemoration of the 46th anniversary of the Magelang Military Academy in Central Java on Tuesday.

“There is absolutely no problem. The issue of the withdraw of these troops depends on an order from the TNI chief. If there is an order to withdraw today, then today it will be carried out. What is it that’s so difficult [to understand]?”, he said.

The suggestion by TNI chief Sutarto on the withdrawal of troops which have been providing security services for 16 vital installations throughout Indonesia was initially presented at a politics and security coordinating meeting on November 4. The suggestion, which has been misinterpreted by media, was explained again by Endriartono at a press conference at the TNI headquarters at Cilangkap last Monday.

“We have suggested to the government that security services at vital national installations be shifted away from the TNI. The conditions and situation at present do not require the presence of the TNI 24 hours a day every day. The TNI want’s to uphold the law in accordance with [prevailing] legislation”, said Endriartono.

Company management

Endriartono explained that basically the role of security at vital installation lies with the management of the company concerned. This security role by management can be in the form of providing a security system or a security unit. “If needed, the police force must provide backup, not the TNI. If it escalates significantly, only then will the TNI be present”, he said.

The vital installations which are currently being protected by the TNI are PT Arun LNG, PT ExxonMobil, PLTA Sigura-gura, PT Inalum, PT Caltex Dumai, Kilang Minyak Plaju and Gerong, PLTU Suralaya, PT Dirgantara Indonesia Bandung, Kilang Minyak Cilacap, PLTU Paiton, PLTU and Petrokimia Gresik, PT Badak LNG Bontang, PT Vico Muara Badak, Unocal Sangata and PT UP V Pertamina Balikpapan, PT Nikel Soroako, PT Freeport Tembaga Pura and PT Puspiptek Serpong.

Of the three TNI battalions carrying out security services, one battalion has been on duty at PT Arun LNG and ExxonMobil in Aceh and at PT Freeport in West Papua. For Aceh, the withdrawal of troops will be carried out after the military emergency states has been revoked.

The security services which have been carried out by TNI represent a state role based on the situation and conditions at the time these vital installations were established. At that time, the TNI was given the task of protecting and guaranteeing the operation of these installations. Because the current situation and conditions have changed, and with Law Number 3/2002 on National Defense [which specifies that the TNI are responsible for national defense and the police for internal security], the TNI wishes to transfer the task to the management of the companies concerned and the police force. The TNI can then focus itself on developing the professionalism of the TNI.

With the planned withdrawal of the three battalions providing security services, the TNI can also avoid accusations and being scapegoated when disturbances occur, as has frequently happened in West Papua in relation to PT Freeport. “It’s true, often we are scapegoated and slandered by other countries”, said Ryamizard. (INU/SUT)

[Translated by James Balowski. In an editorial in the same issue of Kompas, it was suggested that perhaps the TNI were “ngambek” – pouting, moping or sulking.]