MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Unchecked thuggery could lead to organized crime'

Published by MAC on 2003-03-17


'Unchecked thuggery could lead to organized crime'

TNI nothing more than mercenaries: Analysts

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

March 17, 2003

The Indonesian Military (TNI) must stop collecting protection money from firms operating in the country as the largess would confirm the impression that TNI personnel were mercenaries who only sold their services to the highest bidder, analysts say.

Former defense minister Juwono Sudarsono and former Navy intelligence officer Djuanda said on Sunday that TNI should not have funding sources other than the state, and that collecting payments from other sources would erode their loyalty to the state.

"The state should be the only source of funding for the TNI," Juwono told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

Djuanda said that by demanding protection, a perception had been created that the TNI was just a group of mercenaries.

"Continuing the habit of collecting fees from other sources has turned the TNI into nothing more than mercenaries and will create a loyalty crisis," Djuanda was quoted by Antara as saying on Sunday.

Yuwono and Djuanda were commenting on news reports that gold and copper mining company PT Freeport Indonesia was paying tens of billions of rupiah to TNI personnel guarding the company's operations in Papua province. Both TNI commander Gen. Endriartono Sutarto and PT Freeport Indonesia have confirmed the reports.

In 2002 alone, the company provided US$5.6 million for the TNI there, up from US$4.7million 2001.

Collecting protection fees from both state-owned and private firms is commonplace in Indonesia, where security personnel, both TNI and police are paid poorly, but given a free hand to "make" extra money.

Companies paying the fees are not limited to big firms like Freeport but also small firms or side-walk stalls who are required to pay protection money to either the TNI or the police.

Juwono said TNI personnel have been conducting the practices since the late 1970s, when the state budget was reduced for the TNI and the commanders in field were provided with a kind of "discretion" to acquire extra money.

"When I was minister of defense, an executive from ExxonMobil, Ron Wilson, admitted that the company provided support funding for security to TNI via state-owned oil and gas company Pertamina," Juwono disclosed.

He said the money was not delivered directly because the U.S. government banned the distribution of funds for the military or government officials for any reason.

"Usually, Pertamina plays the role as the funding channel from these mining companies for the country's security officers," Juwono remarked.

However, he refused to link such payoffs with a string of violence taking place around Freeport, which many suspect could be related to a desire for an increase in fees.

The murder of separatist leader Theys Hiyo Eluay in 2001, and the ambush killing of two American teachers and an Indonesian employed by Freeport on a road to the mine last year were two major cases which concerned the company.

Seven soldiers from the Army's special forces, Kopassus, are on trial for the Theys murder, while the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is still conducting an investigation into the ambush.

"The province is already a strife-torn area," Juwono remarked. Djuanda emphasized that such payments could make soldiers loyal to whomever could pay them the most.

The former military advisor for former president Abdurrahman Wahid said that safety of the country was the main obligation of the TNI and the government had specifically assigned them to protect energy sites from any security threats.

In the two war-torn provinces of Papua and Aceh, where several giant natural resource sites are located, there is an extremely heavy presence of military and police personnel.

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