Jakarta Globe - March 30, 2012
Markus Junianto Sihaloho -- The government has added a last-minute provision to the bill on social conflicts that would give the military a greater role in resolving such issues, reversing an earlier pledge to curtail the military's
involvement in this regard.
Eva Kusuma Sundari, the chairwoman of the House of Representatives special committee deliberating the bill, said on Thursday the proposed article was introduced just as the committee ironed out two final points of contention ahead of the bill's expected passage next week.
"A meeting of the committee last night managed to agree on the issues of funding and participation by foreign groups in resolving social conflicts, but the government added a new article about technical assistance from the military," she said.
The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) lawmaker added that the new provision detailed the standard operating procedures for police to request military assistance in handling conflicts.
"The government's explanation is that there is currently no such SOP and that it's necessary to have one," she said. "We're going to discuss this article when the committee meets again on Monday."
That final meeting will be held a day before the plenary session of the House in which the bill is expected to be passed.
The last-minute insertion of the new article marks an about-face by the government on military involvement in social conflicts and disputes. In February, the Defense Ministry said that a bill on national security had been drafted to give local residents a greater say in resolving the disputes and to minimize the military's role.
Ministry official Maj. Gen. Puguh Santoso said that under the terms of the security bill, the military would have to seek approval from the National Security Council before taking any kind of action in order to prevent the recurrence of recent violent clashes that have resulted in allegations of human rights abuses on the part of the security forces.
"In the question of when the military can be called in, the potential for violence has always been a major issue," he said last month. "So that's why the military will no longer be able to take the initiative and dive headfirst into a violent situation. There has to be careful coordination."
Puguh also said that by limiting the military to a last-resort role and prioritizing the enforcement of existing local laws and regulations on security, "the bill will help to better integrate various security sectors so that there's no more fragmentation and we can develop a more cohesive system."