APSN Banner

Suharto gets power to mobilise citizens

Straits Times - September 9, 1997

Jakarta – The Indonesian House of Representatives yesterday passed a package of four Bills on security and defence which, among others, authorizes the President to mobilise citizens for war. The Bills are on military tribunal, mobilisation and demobilization, military discipline, and police.

Mr Sutejo, who chairs a session on the Bills' deliberation, said: "All the factions ... agree to pass the Bills to be signed into law by the President."

The factions consist of representatives from the ruling Golkar Party, the United Development Party, the Indonesian Democratic Party and the Indonesian armed forces.

Defence and Security Minister Edi Sudradjat and military commander General Feisal Tanjung attended the session.

The Bill on mobilisation and demobilization authorizes the President, as the highest commander of the armed forces, to conscript citizens between 18 and 50 of age to do battle should the armed forces prove unable to stop a crisis from threatening the nation's existence.

The legislation defines the armed forces as the army, navy, air force, police and the reserve army.

It also requires a state-of-war announcement by the President before citizens can be conscripted.

The Bill also spells out punitive measures for those refusing conscription or to contribute belongings needed during mobilisation.

The article on penalties also applies to government officials who abuse power or refuse to return belongings to owners during demobilisation, as the mobilisation provision does not abolish citizens' rights to belongings, jobs and education.

In writing the legislation, the government drew on the doctrine of public participation in the national defence and security system between 1945 and 1950, formulated in the early years of independence. The House of Representatives also passed amendments to the police law to curtail what some analysts have criticised as the excessive powers of the police.

Articles amended include one that allows police to use force and firearms while on duty. Police can now take "additional action" only for self-defence purposes.

The new law also provides a mechanism to prevent abuse of power by the police.

As a result, police who make professional mistakes will now face sanctions regulated under a police code of ethics, while those who break the law will be go before a military tribunal. The modified law gives police the authority to only monitor public meetings, as opposed to the old law which allowed police to stop, disperse and take other measures against illegal public meetings.

The legislature also passed an amendment on military tribunals, replacing the old law passed in 1970, to place all judicial proceedings involving the military under the supervision of the armed forces chief, instead of the Supreme Court.

A military discipline Bill was also passed along with the other three Bills.

When the Bill authorising the call-up of citizens for active duty was introduced, military insiders said that it did not indicate a shift in Jakarta's perceptions of the external threats facing the country.

Rather, said Professor Juwono Sudarsono, vice-governor of the National Resilience Institute, it was to enable the authorities to "marshal the assistance of society at large to deal with all kinds of emergencies, including natural calamities and man-made disasters".