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Indonesian military to intensify discipline drive

Jakarta Globe - January 18, 2011

Markus Junianto Sihaloho & Dessy Sagita – The military says it wants to serve as a model of discipline and good conduct for the country and its battered legal system.

In announcing plans on Tuesday to improve soldier discipline and strengthen the military police, the military's chief of staff made several references to the country's law enforcement system, which is suffering a crisis of confidence after a string of scandals, including the Gayus Tambunan affair.

Adm. Agus Suhartono said the military could not ignore what was happening in the country, and needed to serve as a role model of legal respect. "We must provide protection and justice for all the people," he said in a statement.

He said that to improve discipline in the ranks and enforce' respect for the law, the military police would be more active in cracking down on infractions. "Our hope is that the military police can help create legal order within our environment," the statement said.

Air Vice Marshal Eddy Hardjoko, chief of the General Staff, said the military police would focus on the six main types of offenses committed by soldiers: traffic violations, desertion, persecution of civilians, adultery and immorality, drug use and possession, and misuse of firearms.

The military police, he said, had recorded 985 offenses by soldiers in 2010, from 1,148 the previous year. Of the incidents last year, 423 were traffic violations, from 432 in 2009.

"However, the number of soldiers involved in traffic violations last year was 428, up from 400 in 2009, so we'll give special attention to disciplining them on this issue," Eddy said.

He said 406 soldiers had been dishonorably discharged in 2010, less than half the 862 discharged in 2009. The main offense committed by soldiers last year was desertion, with 1,137 servicemen fleeing the force.

Cases of persecution of civilians came second with 413, followed by adultery and immorality with 403, drugs with 174 and firearms misuse with 50.

But Haris Azhar, chairman of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), said the military's effort to polish its image would be useless as long as it refused to allow soldiers to be tried in civilian courts.

"The military often claims that the trials and sentences from a military tribunal are harsher than from a civilian court, but often that's not true," he said.

He added that while it was important to punish soldiers who committed crimes, it was even more crucial to prevent such crimes from happening. "Many times violations occur because soldiers are allowed to live among civilians," Haris said. "Why not let them live in special barracks?"