Jakarta – The recently enacted law on civil servants allows active military and police officers to assume certain civilian positions in the central government, raising concerns about the return to the authoritarian rule of the Soeharto era.
During his 32-year tenure, Soeharto introduced the concept of the dual functions of the military, under which active soldiers were appointed as regents, mayors, governors, and ministers. During the so-called New Order era, the legislature also recognized the presence of a military/police faction.
The civil servant law, issued on October 31, stipulates that active military and police officers can hold certain civilian positions to be determined by government regulation at a later date.
The law also opens the door for civil servants to have a role in military/police institutions based on their competence.
Legal expert Feri Amsari said on Sunday that the new law could potentially facilitate the return of the military's dual functions, which granted officers political power and authority to govern, beyond their main task of safeguarding national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and enforcing law and order.
"The TNI [Indonesian Military] and the National Police must handle defense and security, not civilian bureaucracy," Feri told the news website Kompas.
He argued that the responsibility for defense and security is already a very demanding task that soldiers and police officers need to focus on their core duties.
Furthermore, the chain of command in the military doesn't align with civilian duties, which primarily involve public service, the lecturer from Andalas University said.
Feri speculated that the law was adopted to appease the military and the police ahead of the 2024 general elections.
The law also fails to address the fundamental issue facing military and police officers, which is the need to make their professions more financially rewarding, he added.
Indonesia has adopted civilian rule since the reform era in 1999, a year after Soeharto resigned amid nationwide pro-democracy protests.