Newly installed Army Chief of Staff Gen. Moeldoko vows to change the culture of the Indonesian military, including getting rid of arrogant behavior against civilians that has recently triggered conflicts between military officers and civilians.
A series of violent clashes that pit soldiers against police and residents continue to escalate in recent months. A group of soldiers stormed a penitentiary in Yogyakarta in March, shooting four prisoners dead. In the same month, dozens of soldiers attacked and burned down a police station in Ogan Komering Ulu, South Sumatra.
In April, 10 Army soldiers attacked the office of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) in South Jakarta.
“I want the officers to be more polite, humble and to understand what civilians want [from them],” said Moeldoko on Tuesday.
He said he wanted all military personnel — from the lowest rank to the highest — to be individuals with a humble personality.
The four-star general, who was installed last month, also hoped to improve the military’s professionalism, but he reminded the public that the process could take time.“I hope the people can be patient,” he said.
Moeldoko said that improvement over a period of time was necessary because the cultural change would begin with fixing the armed forces’ education and training model.
Analysts have said that the military’s involvement in civilian affairs is rooted deeply in the Suharto era since the 32-year New Order gave the military unchecked power.
“The military has ruled for so long that they find it difficult to realize that times have changed and the civilians should lead them,” said Bantarto Bandoro, a lecturer at the Indonesian Defense University.
Moeldoko also promised to bring all soldiers in violation of the law to court, saying that perpetrators of attacks have been processed according to the law.
In the Cebongan prison attack, army officers suspected of breaking into the prison three months ago and shooting four detainees were a step closer to being brought in front of a judge, he said.
“The process of preparing the dossiers of all suspects in the Cebongan case has been completed and we have submitted them all to the military tribunal,” Moeldoko said. “Be assured that the military tribunal will work in line with the regulations.”
The detainees awaiting trial are Hendrik Angel Sahetapi, Yohanes Juan Manbait, Gameliel Yermianto Rohi Riwu and Adrianus Candra Galaja.
Military investigators have said that the motive for the killings was revenge for the death three days earlier of their Kopassus colleague First Sgt. Heru Santoso, for which the four detainees had been arrested.
Human rights groups, arguing that military tribunals in Indonesia lacked accountability, transparency and neutrality, have called for the army officials to be brought to a civilian court.
Under Indonesian law, soldiers cannot be tried in civilian courts, regardless of the nature of their offense, although there have been a few notable exceptions in which officers were brought in front of an ad hoc human rights court regarding human rights violations.
In a separate case, the Diponegoro Police Regional Military in Central Java has named six military officers as suspects in the murder of a civilian, Rido Hehanusa.
It was reported that Rido and his friends got into a fight with several people who were believed to be military officers at the Liquid Cafe, Semarang, on Thursday.
After the fight, an unknown men approached Rido and took him away on a taxi. At 11 pm, Rido was found dead and was taken to a hospital in Semarang.
The military sent Rido’s remains to his hometown in Maluku and covered all expenses.