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House speaker wants TNI's role in security

Jakarta Post - March 5, 2001

Jakarta – Speaker of the House of Representatives Akbar Tandjung has joined calls for the involvement of the Indonesian Military (TNI) in maintaining security nationwide.

TNI should be given back its role in maintaining security if the country wants to ward off the threat of disintegration, Akbar said Friday night while in Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan.

"I am of the opinion that TNI can be asked to help maintain security and order," for the sake of national stability, Akbar said as quoted by Antara. Earlier on Thursday a coalition of Islamic parties urged TNI to act to help maintain security.

The coalition, consisting of the New Masyumi Party, the New Indonesia Party, the Democratic Islamic Party and the Indonesian Muslim Awakening Party, said in a statement that "We hope TNI act immediately to put the situation under control." The statement was read by chairman of the New Indonesia Party, Syaiful Anwar, in Jakarta.

Also on Thursday Army Chief of Staff Gen. Endriartono Sutarto said TNI should be given more room to help maintain security nationwide.

"I believe that every modern country adopts the principle of separated security and defense responsibilities in order to avoid an overlapping while they [police and military] perform their duties," said Endriartono.

Akbar meanwhile said TNI's involvement in maintaining security is necessary when the country is faced with riots with a religious or ethnic overtone, better known as SARA (social, religious, race and inter-group).

Riots triggered by SARA can lead to national disintegration and it is the duty of TNI to defend the territorial integrity of the nation, Akbar said. "When elements of SARA are behind a riot, then TNI must be involved," he added.

Earlier this week, Minister of Defense Mahfud M.D. voiced his concern over the separation of the National Police from the TNI, saying that it could "create a lot of problems".

Mahfud claimed that a decree of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) on the separation needed to be reviewed in the next MPR's annual session considering that, among other things, the National Police had a weak intelligence network and that the police were technically underequipped to deal on their own with situations of domestic chaos.

Mahfud's statement was strongly criticized by the police, saying that it was the minister's personal opinion.