By: Mufti Makaarim Al-Ahlaq

Executive Director of Institute for Defense, Security and Peace Studies (IDSPS)

Jakarta, Indonesia


1. THIS PAPER prepared based on the idea of giving another perspective and learn on the effort of Indonesian Civil Society Organization (CSOs) in ensuring state responsibility on establishment of democratic system as well as promotion, protection and fulfillment of human rights and peaceful society in 1998-2008. A number of achievements, constraints and opportunities faced by CSOs in democratization advocacy focused here started from 1998, at the time of “New Order Regime” (Rezim Orde Baru) falling down. The other reason to take CSO’s work after 1998 issues is to point out the ongoing struggle of Indonesian CSO’s although the new government come and declared their commitment for democracy, as the similar problem with some Asian countries in term of seeking justice, accountability, peaceful and non-violence approaches, as well as government respect to human rights.

2. In general this short paper will observe the general works of Indonesian CSOs, based on the research of the Institute of Defense, Security and Peace Studies (IDSPS) on the effectiveness of Indonesian CSOs Strategies in security sector reform (SSR) during 1998-2006 that conducted in 2007, within some update on recent situation and link up with ARENA’s objectives of this workshop.

Indonesian Context

3. UNTIL the beginning of 2008, many Indonesian CSOs say that the reformation process in general run stagnantly. Although some normative progress had been attained since the regime change post-May 1998,[1] however the state apparently remained to be ’weak’ in implementing, supervising and evaluating the implementation of various policies. In some cases the executive-legislative-judicial performance was also considered as hasn’t been extremely changed in the tendency to public aspiration, which in certain condition, their political interest still tended to defeat public interest. As the consequences, the phenomenon of political status quo and impunity[2] becomes a heavy flow which remains to gnaw the democracy transition flow today.

4. At the same time CSOs admitted significant improvement in freedom of expression as compared to the New Order (Orde Baru) period. This extraordinary ‘result’ of reform was used by CSOs to advocate for reform in various sectors. In 1998, CSOs efforts in entered a phase that could never have been imagined during the New Order, in which government and policy makers considered public aspirations in policy formulation, and at certain points, were even ‘willing’ to involve CSOs in the process. Unfortunately this relationship and collaboration not working well and being consistent. It indicated from the CSOs note which is that reform activities and efforts that have been undertaken by some Presidential government after Soeharto (B.J. Habibie, Abdurrahman Wahid, Megawati Soekarnoputri, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono) and parliament, have not resulted in significant change. The reform agenda, which was articulated and demanded in 1998, has been increasingly ignored, and public pressure and state accommodation has shifted toward symbolic rather than substantive reform. This trend is marked by the emergence of several poorly-implemented policies which are partially and inadequately monitored.

5. Furthermore, policy development and implementation has depended on the interpretation and will of government that decide what they want to reform.[3] A number of issues were not resolved because of the political complexities and conflicts of interest among the elites.[4] In some cases, the effect of decreased international pressure related to the interest of using security actors for the purpose of the “war against terror” has also been a factor.[5]

Role of CSOs

6. In almost 10 years, many CSOs made efforts to encourage, influence and supervise reform processes. The strategic roles of CSOs were quite diverse, ranging from the development of reformation discourse, the formulation of and advocacy for legislation and policies, encouraging accountability and transparency in policy processes and implementation, to monitoring and critiquing the misconduct of authorities, as well as violations of the law involving actors from the security institution, law enforcement apparatus, government and parliament.[6]

7. This new CSO advocacy environment was also accompanied by activities and efforts that were sufficiently focused,[7] involved coalitions with many actors and approaches, and addressed problems that were not an sich in political matters, but more technocratic solutions for the security sector, law enforcement mechanism, budgetary policy and even educational curriculum development for the military, police and civil servant apparatus. These advocacy strategies were influenced by several factors such as 1). The existence of old elites and their politics of compromise and accommodation –which used to have an active role in the New Order governmental period— at the judicial, legislative and executive levels to public emergency demands for reform; 2). The emergence of civilian politicians from old and new parties who supported a number of democracy transition agendas; 3) Increased public access to policy making in parliament and government, even though this was not accompanied by massive involvement in the formulation process, and the substance of the changes has not yet fulfilled the public’s expectations; and 4). International community pressure and support for the democratization agenda in Indonesia.[8]

8. It is also important to note the role that CSOs played in the last two governmental periods (Megawati Soekarnoputri and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono -SBY administrations), which was generally dispersed, partial, without consensus or strict division of responsibility among themselves, and more pragmatic in advancing the SSR agenda as compared to the previous two governmental periods (B.J. Habibie and Abdurrahman Wahid). In some cases this more recent CSO role was influenced by national and international macro-political dynamics such as the “anti-terrorism” agenda, which justified the state’s repressive behavior and violation of human rights principles, increased international military cooperation such as the revocation of United States military restriction, national and municipal elites’ interests and pragmatism, the government’s conservative response to demands for change, as well as the consolidation of the state and security actors, and resistance in reaction to CSO input or pressure. These conditions may indicate that Indonesia’s transition to democracy is experiencing a juncture and a period of “saturation”, which may have the positive outcome of boosting level and intensity of reform advocacy, or the negative outcome of reform advocacy exhaustion and burn-out.

Obstacles and Challenges

9. Reformation advocacy by CSOs does not only encounter resistance from security actors, but also from the state’s ambiguous political stance and low levels of support from the political elite. As a result, CSOs have put forward a more realistic reformation advocacy agenda and strategy that is in line with their program capacity and the direction of each organization.[9]

10. At the security actor level, there are many problems that still need to be resolved, which are related to the commitment of the Indonesian National Army (TNI), the Indonesian Police (POLRI) and the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) in the way that they view, interpret and implement democratic values which have recently become enshrined in the constitution and legislation. The unstable political and economic situation in Indonesia tempts these institutions to take action that is of political and economic benefit to themselves. Furthermore, these security sector institutions remain at the centre of legitimating anyone who comes into political power.[10]

11. Government-led reform of the military and police only covers the normative aspects of non-enforceable institutional laws, past human rights violations, structural aspects, and a defense strategy for a maritime country with a democratic political system. Intelligence reform is still far from being comprehensive or complete because none of the laws that were proposed were supported.[11] Furthermore, the view that CSOs are an internal threat to national integrity and unity of the Unitary State of Republic of Indonesia (Negara Kesatuan Republik Indonesia, NKRI) is still held by the government officials nowadays, especially those from the military.[12]

12. At the governmental level, although President SBY encouraged the gradual reform of the military when he held a senior military position, as President, he has been unenthusiastic about continuing the military reform process or wider SSR as pushed for by various CSOs. As a consequence, he has built military, police and intelligence’s loyalties to him rather than creating a democratic control structure. In this way, he has succeeded in increasing his influence and becoming the legitimating centre of these institutions’ interests, creating a relationship of political submission and fragmentation of security actor elites only to civilian political institutions that share their point of view, and slowly re-opening the doors to political maneuvering for security actors as was common in the past.

13. The Parliament itself seems busy with group and party political interests rather than encouraging, evaluating, monitoring and taking action on the stagnation of a variety of reform agendas. At a certain level, this has become one of the obstacles to reform resulting in parliamentarians not ensuring effective implementation or monitoring of legislation and tending to encourage and support security sector legislation and policy that is contrary to the democracy spirit. The discourse developed by party elites and Legislative Council members tended to stay away from the substance of reform, and used the language of democratic values to justify their many interests which are far from public aspirations and goals. Formal and symbolic reform has taken place with their help, yet the changes that have been made are rife with problems related to compromise decisions that are pro-status-quo, anti-reform and even in the interests of democracy, that can become a political boomerang in the future.

Lesson Learned

14. CSOs remain the central engine of democratic transition, provided that they can consolidate and reformulate their advocacy strategy. Its role in the political regime change in 1997-1998 was a proof of its central role. CSOs at least can continue to develop three areas of advocacy, namely influencing internal government and policy makers, serving as a monitoring and pressure group regarding strategic policies in the security sector, as well as supporting the discourse and understanding of the urgent need for reform among the public. Even though CSO perspectives and discourse have become part of public discourse, CSOs look have not yet been able to make it as government-parliament-civilian discourse. Progress that has taken place at the level of strategy has not been fully accompanied by the establishment of a credible organization, a solid network, continual communication and information dissemination to the public, or consistent work patterns and networking.

15. All require a consolidation and reformulation of advocacy strategy in accordance with the changing national and global political situation, as well as the more pragmatic democratic transition dynamics in Indonesia. CSOs can begin by evaluating and critiquing its advocacy experience in order to determine the effectiveness and strategic approach that were used.

16. The government’s relationship with civil society and its ability to respond to CSO aspirations influence the nation’s political image. It is important for the government not to ignore 1998 reform demands that have not been implemented, or to drift away from a commitment to reformation. Transition and reform have been marked by neglect and deviation from 1998 reform priorities and issues. As a consequence, current problems are not different from past problems such as impunity, human rights violations, corruption and abuses of authority. All these problems continue, and there has been no investigation or resolution to past problems.

17.   Difficulties in fulfilling reform are the result of minimal evaluation of the substance or the effectiveness of legislation that has been implemented so far. Without such an evaluation, a number of problems will persist in government institution. Neglecting to carry out an evaluation may also erode the public’s trust in the state’s ability to guarantee public safety and security.

18. The shift to international priorities should not ignore the need for consistent support and international public pressure for political change and democratization in Indonesia. Given Indonesian society’s doubt about the state’s political will, the development of a democratic system will not come about without sustained international public support and pressure. In the security sector, international political support and pressure continue to be needed to ensure the establishment of a professional military and police, subject to civilian supremacy, various national and international legal instruments, and the need to respect human rights. This includes ensuring the running of a fair and accountable legal process for past and current violations and criminal cases related to human rights, corruption and abuse of power.

This short paper prepared for Asian Regional Exchange for New Alternatives (ARENA) “2008 International Workshop on Human Rights and Peace” 16-17 May 2008, Gwangju, Korea. Most of the content taken from Mufti Makaarim A and S. Yunanto (Ed.) “The Effectiveness of Civil Society Advocacy Strategies in Security Sector Reform in Indonesia 1998-2006”, published in March 2008.

[1] Such as the change of a number of legislations at national and provincial levels, the formation of extra-judicial institutions to strengthen the control over the government, as well as a more open public ‘participation’ space to influence and supervise the decision making at executive, legislative and judicial levels.

[3] Reformasi TNI Masih Parsial dan Internal (TNI’s Reform Still Partial and Internal), Kompas, November 14, 2006

[4] For instance, the security apparatus continues to deny occurrences of human rights abuses and ‘political offense’ and resist the need for professionalism and accountability (including being subject to the civilian political authority and applicable laws). A similar view is held by some academics and political observers abroad. While they acknowledge that there has been some change in the security sector, generally they view the reform processes that have been encouraged since 1998 as mostly ceremonial and ineffective. A political observer, William Liddle, explicitly stated –as quoted by Mitzner—that there is a slowly dawning recognition that nothing fundamental has in fact changed since 1998”. See Marcus Mietzner, The Politic of Military Reform in Post-Soeharto Indonesia; Elite Conflict, Nationalism and Institutional Resistance, (Washington: East West Center, 2006), pp. 1-2.

[5] Statement of Erwin Schweilm, Director of Frederich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Indonesian Office in IDSPS interview, May 31, 2007

[6] In SSR advocacy, CSOs create the political urgency for policy and legislative change (in the form of assessment/review, rejection, proposal activities) supported by cross-institutional networks that are bound by collective solidarity and identity. CSOs play this important role in addition to criticizing the implementation of SSR policies that deviate from democratic values, holding discussions with policy holders or becoming partners with policy makers. An interview with Asmara Nababan, the Executive Director of Demos, May 22, 2007.

[7] In order not to stated as more limited, considering CSOs advocacy tendency which tries to act realistically on the demand choice and issues which are more likely to obtain the state or public support.

[8] Mufti Makaarim A., “Peran Organisasi Masyarakat Sipil Dalam Reformasi Sektor Keamanan di Indonesia (The Role of Civil Society Organizations in Security Sector Reform in Indonesia),” in Beni Sukadis (Ed.), The Almanac of Reform in Indonesia’s Security Sector 2007 (Jakarta: Lesperssi & DCAF, August 2007), p. 157.

[9] Such views appear from CSOs in all Focus Group Discussion held in 8 cities in Indonesia such Jakarta, Medan, Bengkulu, Solo, Malang, Pontianak, Ujung Pandang, Kupang and Ambon.

[10] Both the Megawati and SBY governments clearly showed their ‘political’ dependency to these powers by not pressuring these institutions to reform and adopt democratic principles and practices. One cause of apprehension is that these security actors only offer conditional loyalty to civilian leaders depending on their political leanings, as was demonstrated by the political pressure that President Habibie and Abdurrahman Wahid received. See Anas S. Saidi & Jaleswari Pramodhawardani (Ed.), “Military Without Militarism,” Suara dari Daerah (Voices from Rural Areas) (Jakarta: Puslitbang on Social and Culture LIPI, 2001).

[11] These security institutions still have much to prove to society regarding their true commitment to the democratic transition process where there is supremacy of civilian political rule in government. Public trust in the TNI, POLRI and BIN also needs to be won because the cases of violence and human rights violations still take place, and because fair and accountable law enforcement has not been exercised.

[12] The TNI still believes that human rights NGOs’ demands for accountability for human rights violations and infractions of the law by TNI/POLRI members serve the interests of Western powers and pose a threat to the TNI’s unity and power. Therefore, some human rights NGOs are hesitant to demand justice for abuses committed by the military for fear of their own survival in Indonesia.