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Military reserves bill not likely to pass this year: Defense ministry

Jakarta Globe - July 31, 2012

A bill governing service in the military reserves is not likely to pass this year due to public resistance, but could be approved next year, the Defense Ministry says.

The National Defense Reserves bill requires civilian members of the Armed Forces (TNI) to serve if called to war. If they refuse to serve in the event of war, they could be jailed for a year.

"If citizens meet the requirements but purposefully refuse the invitation [to serve in war], they would receive a maximum sentence of a year [in prison]," Brig. Gen. Hartind Asrin, a Defense Ministry spokesman, said on Monday as quoted by news portal Tempo.com.

"Company directors who forbid their employees from joining it [the TNI] would also be sanctioned for six months," he added.

Hartind said he expected that the bill, which has been under consideration at the House of Representatives since 2010, would pass next year at the earliest.

Lawmaker Tubagus Hasanuddin said discussions at the House had been in deadlock for years. "There's too much resistance from the public," he said.

Hartind, however, said the public should not worry about the scope of the bill, which he said would not force anyone to join the military reserves. "The bill is different from the compulsory military service in some other nations," he said.

Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro confirmed this last Thursday, saying the bill would not require anyone to actually join the reserves. If passed, he said, people could still choose whether to join.

"There is no such thing as compulsory military service [In Indonesia]," he said, as quoted by Indonesian news portal Detik.com. "This [joining the reserves] will be an option."

If civilians did join the reserves, he said, they would be treated differently than TNI soldiers. While civilians in the reserves could participate in military training, they would not have the same obligations as regular soldiers, he said.

Still, he said, the bill would require them to take part in military operations if they were asked in the event of war. "So if someone is part of the reserves, [the TNI] can order him [to join an operation] when they need him," he said.