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INDONESIA POLLS: The (unwanted) hope for military power revival

Publication Date : 09-06-2014

 

Presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto has clearly given the military strong hope that it might regain the political power it lost following the fall of his former father-in-law, Soeharto, in May 1998. There are strong public fears of efforts by the Army — or certain elements within the military — to coerce people to vote for the former general in the July 9 presidential election.

The presidential bid of Prabowo, who was dismissed from the military for his alleged role in the kidnapping of anti-Soeharto activists, has revived the sweet memory of the New Order, when the military enjoyed lucrative privileges — as well as carte blanche to abuse human rights in the name of “protecting” the state from evil elements.

Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Moeldoko and Army chief of staff Gen. Budiman have repeatedly assured the public that the military would be neutral in the election. But a recent incident in Central Jakarta of TNI personnel intimidating voters and similar media reports from other places are strong indications that the military’s temptation to re-enter politics should be closely watched by civil society.

Also alarming is Prabowo’s move to bring problematic and questionable groups or persons into his camp. How can he fulfill all the promises he has made to his unruly farrago of supporters?

Moeldoko was ridiculous when he denied an already incredulous statement from the Army that explained the intimidation incident as simply an Army captain and a non-commissioned officer “trying” to identify voters’ preferences in a sub-district in Central Jakarta.

As reported by several media outlets, Moeldoko insisted there was no evidence that the Gambir district military chief Capt. Saliman and Corp. Rusfandi were guilty of “guiding” residents to cast their ballot for the pair of Prabowo and Hatta Rajasa in the July 9 presidential election.

Moeldoko and Budiman have used the tactics of “denial” and “pointing the finger at much lower subordinates”, practices rampantly employed by military generals when the public demanded accountability for gross human rights abuses amid the fall of Soeharto.

Junior officers should take responsibility and bear the consequences for the mega-crimes because the generals easily argued that their “instructions were misunderstood” by their subordinates. Prabowo was discharged from the military, and he fled to Jordan, apparently to prevent “unnecessary implications” arising from public suspicion and allegations. The question is not about Prabowo’s alleged dual citizenship (Indonesian and Jordan) but about his fundamental military spirit of responsibility.

Indonesians are likely to agree that we should have a strong and powerful military, but one that makes foreign enemies tremble, not the children of its own nation, as Soeharto’s military did. Kidnap the foreign soldiers who try to invade Indonesia, not the young Indonesian activists fighting for a much better country.

Also, it is very natural that Prabowo would try to gain as much support as possible from various groups in society in his presidential bid against rival Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. However, that Prabowo has warmly welcomed the notorious Islam Defenders Front (FPI) into his camp has triggered fears. The former general should have thought twice before enlisting the FPI as an ally.

As an ordinary citizen, I cannot understand his decision. To me, it looks like a desperate attempt to get as many votes as possible without considering the implications of where they come from.

Today, Prabowo and Jokowi will square off in the first of five live debates broadcast by several TV networks. Indonesians will have the opportunity to get a closer look at their potential future leader. But we need to bear in mind that those impressive in public speaking are not necessarily equally impressive in delivering on what they
promise.

The General Elections Commission (KPU) and the Elections Monitoring Agency (Bawaslu) will continue to work hard (and hopefully also intelligently) to ensure that we will have a fair, just, direct and secret election in July 9.

Many voters think that Prabowo would be a firm leader in defending the country’s interests because he is a former general. But we should also remember that we have been led by a retired Army general — President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono — for the last 10 years, and we were often frustrated by his slow actions. He is often described as Mr. Doubtful.

Do you want to know my choice in the presidential election? I will vote for a candidate who I can trust, although probably he is not as smart or as promising as many people expect. I will cast my vote for a candidate who, according to me, has done his best to serve the interests of ordinary people like me. I will a choose a leader who has a good track record on human rights, and who has a simple life like most of us — ordinary Indonesians.

Let voters decide the future of the nation. They have the constitutional right to choose whether Prabowo or Jokowi will lead us for the next five years.

 

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