Thursday, April 20, 2006

Restructuring Indonesian Defense System

It is interesting to know that the Indonesian government has decided to revamp its defense system. With a Navy of only 65,000 personnel and an Air Force of 45,000 while an Army of 285,000 personnel in country where water and air contribute to more than half of its total territory, there is a clear imbalance between the three forces in Indonesia.

Even though the Indonesian Army has long been playing very important security and defense role in Indonesia but an Army-centered defense mechanism in an island nation like Indonesia is seen to be irrelevant if Indonesia wants to establish an effective and dependable defense mechanism to guard and defend its national security and interests. Thus there is an urgent necessity to draw a new system of defense most suitable for an island nation like Indonesia. Expanding the Indonesian Navy and Air Force is an important step to achieve this goal.

Following this logic, the Minister of Defense, Juwono Sudarsono said that the necessity of spending more on the two defense forces is “because the nature of our defense situation is more about the water and the air. For the Army, the key word is not modernizing, but stabilizing ... emphasizing the presence of the battalions." (The Jakarta Post, 19 April 2006, “Air Force, Navy to get bigger chunk of funds”)

Nobody can agree more with this view. By increasing the numbers of the Navy and the Air Force personnel while at the same time modernizing their weaponry and technology would definitely create a balance in the Indonesian military. Furthermore, this long-awaited defense policy change is expected to create a defense system more suitable to the country's archipelagic geography.

Even though the success of the revamp process of the defense system would rely on both Indonesia’s financial availability and also cooperation with neighboring countries, but the need to improve Indonesia’s increasing demand of security and defense is unavoidable. The relatively small military budget should be increased to meet the demands. Because with the currently weak capacity of sea and air patrols, Indonesia is estimated to lose about Rp 2 trillion annually due to illegal fishing practices in the country's waters. This fact only proves the argument on the need of improving and re-orienting Indonesia’s security and defense mechanism into water and air, while at the same time stabilizing its Army.

How and Where to Begin

The improving strategic relationship between Indonesia and the US can be used as an initial step towards the process. The decision by the US administration to resume its military relation with Indonesia will only add to the greater possibility of acquiring better technology and weaponry system for Indonesian military. In the nearer front, the long history of a cordial military relation with India should be utilized even more in this process. Indonesia can imitate the Indian experience of building up its Naval force. The proximity of the two countries can also be used as a step towards building up an important partnership in Indonesia’s effort to revamp its defense system.

As the biggest country in South Asia that occupies the biggest chunk of land in the Indian Sub-Continent, it was thus understandable that the Indian Navy was the most neglected of the three services because the national leadership perceived that the bulk of the threats to India were land-based. However, with the change of approach and priority, the Indian Navy has been transformed into a formidable naval power in the world.

Through the conscious and difficult process of indigenisation started in the mid 1960s in consonance with its national endeavour towards self-reliance, the Indian Navy embarked upon an ambiguous program of indigenous construction of ships and development of major sub systems, sensors and weapon systems with the help of its Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Defence Public Sector Understandings (PSUs). Even though fiscal constraints at that time had prevented the implementation of these ambitious plans for naval expansion but the determination among Indian leadership was high that through close partnership with foreign country like the then Uni Soviet, India succeeded in revamping its Navy. This long process of transformation has enabled the Indian Navy to become a builder’s Navy and not just be a buyer’s Navy. Self-reliance through indigenisation that has been the Indian Navy’s guiding philosophy over the last half century proved to be very effective in this transformation process.

At the same time, in the spirit of international military cooperation, India has made moves in the early and mid-1990s to enhance joint-nation interoperability. Indian naval exercises have taken place with ships from the Russian navy and those of Indian Ocean littoral states and other nations, including the United States. This experience can also become an important factor for Indonesia in its effort to implementing a defense policy that is friendly, non-threatening and is not carried out by massive provision of weapons.

If the Indonesian government can follow these initial steps, it will surely be successful in its process to revamp the defense system. Workable regional security cooperation can also be built through this process. Even though it would still be difficult to increase the defense budget due to some fiscal restraints, but a necessity is there to implement. The Indonesian leadership should chalk out long-term objectives to create self-reliance in the country. An indigenisation process followed by India can become a model for future Indonesia.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Amending the Citizenship Laws

In a discussion between the Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Hamid Awaluddin, and the Indonesian community in New Delhi on 4 April 2006 evening, the Minister has reiterated once again the claim of ‘revolutionary’ decision by the government to re-draft and replace the old citizenship laws for the benefits of the Indonesian people in general and the Indonesian economy in particular.

The government wants to introduce a limited dual citizenship to Indonesian children born out of an international marriage and the possibility of granting permanent resident status to foreign investors in Indonesia. This permanent resident status offer is meant to boost the flow of FDI and help in improving the Indonesian economy.

In my opinion, a permanent resident status to be offered to those foreign investors in Indonesia is a good step towards building up a better future for Indonesian economy. The status will exempt the holders of the long and complicated process of immigration formalities. A permanent resident status offer to foreign investor is certainly a revolutionary step toward integrating Indonesia into the new international landscape.

However, the idea of a limited dual citizenship to be offered to Indonesian children born out of an international marriage is far from beneficial in easing out their citizenship problems. Because by limiting their chance to choose between being an Indonesian and a non-Indonesian after the age of 18 is discouraging. Protecting the citizenship right of Indonesian women from being forced to relinquish their citizenship in such an international marriage is one important thing but limiting the right of these ‘Indonesians’ to have an Indonesian nationality in future is something different.

Security reason cited as the basis of this idea of limited dual nationality is understandable but not giving a chance to these children to choose what they want to do in future is like denying their basic rights. In this case, the citizenship policy adopted by the Indian government might worth to consider. This citizenship policy has provided a lot of benefits to the development of India as a whole and Indian economy in particular.

Non Resident Indian (NRI), Person of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizen of India (OCI)

These terms are very familiar in the Indian language vocabulary and economy. While the first one refers to those Indian citizens who stay abroad for employment/carrying on business or vocation outside India or stays abroad under circumstances indicating an intention for an uncertain duration of stay abroad, a PIO and an OCI are similar yet different. Both are those persons of Indian origin, up to the fourth generation, living abroad and having foreign passports except those of Pakistan and Bangladesh but the rights and benefits of these cardholders are slightly different. While the right of a PIO cardholder is limited, an OCI cardholder enjoys more benefits.

The benefits of an OCI cardholder are:

1) Multiple entry, multi-purpose life long visa to visit India;
2) Exemption from reporting to Police authorities for ay length of stay in India; and
3) Parity with NRIs in financial, economic and educational fields except in the
acquisition of agricultural or plantation properties.

The Overseas Citizens, however, will not enjoy the following Rights:

1) Right to Vote;
2) Right to hold Constitutional Offices (Member of Lok Sabha (DPR), Rajya Sabha (MPR), Legislative Assembly or Council (DPRD), offices of President, Vice-President, Judge of Supreme Court & High Court, etc.);
3) Appointment to Public Services (Govt. Services)

Compared to PIO card, OCI offers following benefits:

1) OCI is entitled to life long visa, free travel to India whereas for PIO cardholder, it is just for 15 years.
2) PIO cardholder is required to register with local police authority for stay exceeding 180 days in India on any single visit whereas OCI is exemption from reporting to Police for any length of stay in India.

In short, these policies have given a lot of choices to persons of Indian origin to choose. At the same time, the policies gave immense opportunities for India to boost the flow of India’s FDI. In fact, the 7 to 8 % of economic growth enjoys by India for the past few years can in part be attributed to the success of this policy.

If the current Indonesian government is really willing to ‘revolutionize’ the citizenship laws, the Indian experience is worth to consider. While not altering its policy on dual citizenship, India has opened up opportunities for persons of Indian origin belonging to developed countries and willing to invest in India to choose the status of being a PIO or an OCI cardholder.

Thus, instead of adopting a limited dual citizenship, Indonesia can adopt the NRI, PIO or OCI policies adopted by India. In future, there would be a Non Resident Indonesian (NRI), People of Indonesian Origin (PIO) or, for that matter, Overseas Citizen of Indonesia (OCI).

In the end, I believe that this kind of policy will become a breakthrough policy that would certainly offer an answer to the citizenship problem. At the same time, it would attract Indonesians living abroad to return and invest in Indonesia without any difficulties and thus help the development of all sectors in Indonesian.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Papua is Indonesia’s Internal Problem

The response given by Damien Kingsbury to my op-ed article (Is Papua a danger of becoming another E. Timor?) published in The Jakarta Post on 29 March 2006 was quite understandable. I accepted his judgment that my article was just trying to highlight the misunderstandings between the two neighbors so that solutions to the current situation can be formulated for the benefit of both the countries in general and specifically for the Papuans.

However, I feel that there are several aspects that need to be clarified about the claim he made in the response to my article.

First, how different is the circumstances in Papua and the one in Afghanistan or Iraq for that matter when the Australian government decided to refuse their claim as political asylum seekers or to delay their process up to 6 to 12 months as opposed to the relatively quick response by the Australian government to grant the emergency visas to the 42 Papuans?

If human right abuse is the basis for granting the visas, didn’t these Afghans or Iraqis deserve the same treatment? Or there should be differences in their treatment? Wasn’t there any “long and well-documented history of human rights abuses” in these countries?

The seemingly hasty decision by the Australian immigration department to accept the claim of these Papuans as political asylum seekers and granted them visas rose some suspicion on the genuine intentions of the Australian government in supporting the sovereignty of Indonesia.

Secondly, by claiming that there is no Australian involvement to the current situation in Papua, it seems Damien forgot the fact that it was the international communities who had permitted the Indonesian government to implement the New York Agreement and conducted a ‘referendum’ for the future of West Papua in 1969.

Australia as a part of the international observers in the referendum left West Papua before completing its duty. This incident, in turn, resulted in the choreographed referendum that led to the integration of West Papua to Indonesia. No objection by the Australian government was raised to this result.

Thus, Australia is, in my opinion, also responsible to all the problems in Papua. And as a good neighbor, Australia should not exploit the current situation for its short-term objectives but instead Australia should support Indonesia in its efforts to solve the problem in Papua through shared civic values, in which all Indonesian citizens are treated with equality, respect and dignity.

Papua is Indonesia’s internal problem and should not be internationalized. The Government should resolve the matter as soon as possible to avoid being dragged into the traps of those agents who do not want to see Indonesia’s transformation into a powerful nation.

Published in The Jakarta Post on 13 April 2006.
Can be accessed through:

Monday, April 03, 2006

Gets facts right and focus on the real problem

In asking the question, is Papua in danger of becoming another East Timor, Ahmad Qisa'i does little more than highlight a number of misunderstandings about East Timor, Papua and Australia ( The Jakarta Post, March 29, page 7).

To start, the Australian government did not change its policy regarding East Timor in the late 1990s or following the fall of Soeharto. That change only came after the East Timorese voted for independence.

This is not to say that prior Australian policy was morally correct -- in supporting Indonesia's occupation of East Timor, it had been complicit in the many crimes against the East Timorese people committed by Indonesian forces. But that policy did not change until, by Indonesia's own agreement, East Timor chose to separate from Indonesia, and in light of TNI and its proxy militia destroying most of East Timor's infrastructure and murdering a further 1,400 of its people.

It is also worth noting that the UN-sponsored intervention in East Timor included a number of other countries, including New Zealand, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan and others, and had the strong support of the United States. That is, the post-ballot intervention under the auspices of the UN involved many countries, not just Australia.

That is now history, and if some Indonesians choose not to let it go then they will only remind others of how badly Indonesian forces behaved from the moment they invaded East Timor in 1975 until their departure in 1999.

But Papua is not East Timor, and the circumstances of the events of 1999 and now are very different. Just as Australia accepts all other people requesting asylum who can demonstrate a legitimate case of fleeing actual or potential harm, the decision by Australia to accept 42 of 43 Papuan asylum seekers was not a political decision by the government. It was an administrative decision by an independent body. This operates under the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary, which Indonesia also follows.

In highlighting this case, Qisa'i succeeds only in raising the question; why were the Papuan asylum seekers granted asylum? The answer is because there is a long and well documented history of human rights abuses by the Indonesian Military (TNI) and police in Papua against indigenous people, and these asylum seekers were able to show that they had been and were again likely to be victims of such abuses.

There was no "pretext of harassment"; there was well documented abuse. Indonesian government promises that the asylum seekers would not face prosecution if they returned meant little when the TNI and police continue to act outside government purview in Papua. I am sure the government did not condone the murder of Theys Eluay either, but it still happened.

Australia's administrative decision to accept the asylum seekers makes no comment one way or the other on any sympathy that might be felt for Papuans in Australia. The Australian government continues to reaffirm its commitment to the sovereign unity of Indonesia, as it should under conventional diplomatic protocol, and Qisa'i would struggle to find any evidence that official and indeed unofficial policy in any way differed from that.

In so far as many private Australian citizens are concerned over human rights abuses in Papua, this is their legitimate right to do so. Australia is a free country in which its citizens can hold whatever political views they like about domestic or international issues.

To be concerned over human rights abuses wherever they occur is to recognize the universal value of human rights rather than to be concerned about the specific and sometimes narrowly conceived interests of those who wield power in a particular country. That is, universal human rights expresses concern based on the general quality of being human, not on the specific quality of being Indonesian, or Australian, or Papuan.

Like some others in Indonesia, Qisa'i is concerned about Australia's "insensitivity" towards Indonesia over Papua. One might better ask what about insensitivity towards the indigenous people of Papua who are, after all, the primary victims in this sorry mess.

In so far as Papua represents a "delicate problem", the way Papuans are treated in their own land is a long way from delicate. Perhaps a refusal to acknowledge the truth of what has been happening in Papua does raise the tricky question of how to reconcile contradictions between perspective and fact. But sometimes we just have to face facts, and "sensitivity" has to adjust to reality, or else we just end up deluding ourselves.

But perhaps Qisa'i is correct when he says the Indonesian government should act positively to avoid Papua breaking away from Indonesia. To that end, the government should give very serious consideration to fully and properly implementing genuine autonomy as a way of placating the legitimate grievances of the Papuans.

For this, it must be prepared to talk openly and honestly with Papuan leaders, who do exist and who have a common, united view, despite some views in Jakarta that this is not the case. It must listen to them, and find a settlement based on negotiation and agreement, not imposition.

The government of Indonesia did reach a reasonable outcome to the conflict in Aceh. Everyone who cares about peace and the future of Indonesia as a united country hopes this is now honored in the required legislation. Perhaps a similar outcome is also possible in Papua.

The administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has demonstrated with Aceh that unity and peace can only be achieved through shared civic values, in which all Indonesian citizens are treated with equality, respect and dignity.

Perhaps, then, those "nationalists" who are concerned about the future of Papua should focus their attention on the real problem, which is not in Australia, but in Papua. Perhaps, then, this problem could be resolved.

By Damien Kingsbury, Melbourne. He was adviser to the Free Aceh Movement in the resolution of the Aceh conflict and he is director of International and Community Development at Deakin University, Melbourne.

This is a response to my Op-Ed on the Papuan dilema published in The Jakarta Post on 29 March 2006. This response was published in the same paper on 4 April 2006 and can be accessed through the following address: