TNI expresses ‘doubts’ about democracy, desire to return to politics

Kompas Newspaper – October 28, 2013
Kostrad commander Lieutenant General Gatot Nurmantyo (Jakarta Greater)
Kostrad commander Lieutenant General Gatot Nurmantyo (Jakarta Greater)

Jakarta – Army Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad, Green Berets) commander Lieutenant General Gatot Nurmantyo has expressed doubts about the current course of democracy.

The statement provoked reaction from several circles who believe that his statement, as the commander of Kostrad, is controversial and indicates a desire on the part of the military to meddle in politics.

“Our democracy at the moment is populist and led by forces by means of the vote”, said Nurmantyo speaking before hundreds of members of the Pancasila Youth (PP) at the PP’s 54th national gathering on Sunday October 27 at the Jakarta International Expo in Kemayoran, Jakarta.

Nurmantyo continued by illustrating the determination of choice. His conclusion was that at the moment, something that is right is not always liked by the majority of people. “The many are not necessarily right”, said Nurmantyo, who spoke for almost an hour.

According to Nurmantyo, Indonesia already has the [state ideology] of Pancasila as a basis for the state. Its implementation however is incomplete. He added that his presence at the PP event was because the PP was founded by the army (TNI AD) and it is hoped that members of the PP will spread the spirit of patriotism. “Whoever disturbs Pancasila, the PP and the TNI are ready to deal with them”, he said.

Nurmantyo is aware of the fact that the military is not allowed to become involved in practical politics. However he is talking about the politics of the state, namely government policy. He wished to explain about the four pillars of nationalism so that society is vigilant. The PP is seen as a legal mass organisation (ormas) based on Pancasila.

[Golkar Party politician] and member of the House of Representative’s (DPR) Commission I on Defense, Yoris Raweyai, who offered an image and message to the meeting, said that the Kostrad commander’s speech needs to be considered as a basis for the PP. Raweyai said that the culture of guided democracy, namely the TNI and bureaucracy is still closely associated with the PP.

Commenting on the Kostrad commander’s speech, the coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), Haris Azhar said that Nurmantyo is entering into the political arena, which is forbidden. Democracy is a mutually agreed upon decision and because of this, cannot be questioned anymore.

Azhar said that he sees Nurmantyo’s statement as an indication of the direction of the TNI’s politics in 2014, namely that it will not support political parties that are strongly orientated toward democracy. He also said that democracy is fluid, and cannot just be seen from a the process of voting or consensus. The principle of democracy is to channel the aspirations and participation of everyone.

“Democracy requires a process, hopefully all parties are aware of this. Democracy cannot just be measured, what can be measured is education or healthcare”, said Azhar.

A similar view was conveyed by International Binus University lecturer Anton Aliabas. According to Aliabas it would be better for the TNI elite to maintain a distance from and refrain from commenting politics in public.

The general chairperson of the PP’s national leadership board Japto S. Soerjosoemarno said that a liberalisation of democracy has taken place. (EDN)


Pemuda Pancasila (Pancasila Youth) was established by the army in October 1959, ostensibly to uphold the state ideology of Pancasila, but under former president Suharto the organisation became an association of notorious thugs and petty criminals who carried out dirty work on behalf of the regime. The organisation still has close ties with various factions of the military and police, and has been linked to criminal activities such as racketeering and extortion and in recent years has been involved in a number of violent turf wars with other vigilante groups.

[TNI Ragu Demokrasi: Semua Pihak Diharapkan Bersabar dengan Proses – Kompas. Senin, 28 Oktober 2013. Translated by James Balowski.]