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Indonesian Church leader, rights groups oppose military posts

UCA News - May 24, 2023

Church leaders and advocacy groups have opposed Indonesia's plan to set up military posts across all provinces in the Southeast nation, accusing the authorities of efforts to enhance the military's role in civilian life.

Gufron Mabruri, director of the Imparsial Research and Advocacy Institute, said that there is no compelling reason to build provincial-level commands as there is no serious threat to national security.

The addition of new regional military command in all 38 provinces in the Muslim-majority nation is meant "to perpetuate the military's influence on domestic politics" and daily life, Mabruri said in a statement on May 24.

Indonesia's defense ministry is adamant about going ahead with its plan to add regional military commands in 38 provinces despite criticism from various quarters.

Currently, the country has 15 regional military commands in all 38 provinces, including two formations that cater to four new provinces in Papua and West Papua. According to data from Global Fire Power, a rating of the military forces of all countries on the planet, Indonesia is ranked 16th in the world's military power scene with a PowerIndex of 0.2684.

"This has implications for the military to get involved in political life, which will also hinder Indonesia's plan to have "a strong, professional and modern means of national defense," Mabruri noted.

The army, led by its chief General Dudung Abdurachman, wants to set up one military command in each province, at the direction of Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto who said the military needed to closely interact with local governments as part of a grand defense strategy.

Ikhsan Yosarie, an expert at Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, said the basis of the argument presented to the public "is irrelevant."

"The defense strengthening" should be carried out in modern ways with "the use of defense technology, not by repeating conventional methods," he told UCA News.

Augustinian priest Father Bernard Baru, a Papuan humanitarian activist, said the move is part of a threat to normal life in strife-torn Papua.

"On Sundays during worship services, the church building is monitored and guarded by military personnel," he told UCA News.

The addition of more military posts in Papua will be "even more uncomfortable to the community," the priest added.

Defense expert Al Araf said the new addition was a ploy by the defense minister who wants to enter the presidential poll fray in 2024.

"Prabowo [Subianto] assesses the regional military command as space and opportunities for the politics of the 2024 elections," he told BBC Indonesia.

Source: https://www.ucanews.com/news/indonesian-church-leader-rights-groups-oppose-military-posts/10141