Mufti Makaarim A[1][2]


Generally, in the view of society, the process of security sector reform (SSR) in Indonesia is not yet complete. Indeed, there has been some normative progress through the enactment of new legislations in security sector and there has been more ‘space’ for public participation up to a certain level in the parliament and government in policy making process. However, the role of the government and the parliament to implement, monitor and evaluate various legislations and to adopt public aspirations is still somewhat weak. On one hand, traditional security actors (military, police and intelligence) still tend to be resistant and respond negatively towards the pressure for reformation and the demands put forward by a number of civil society organizations (CSOs). Pro-democracy groups and CSOs have not been performing optimally in conducting SSR advocacy. In fact, the intensity of the pressure that they exert tends to decrease in the past few years.[3]

Similarly, in some aspects government’s performance (executive-legislative-judicial) does not seem to be improving in terms of being in of favour public aspiration. In certain conditions, government’s own political interests still tend to outweigh those of the public. As a consequence, the phenomenon of political status quo and impunity remains a mainstream that erodes the flow of democratic transition, including SSR. On the other hand, civil society is faced with problems of organizational consolidation, limited innovation in advocacy strategies and SSR-related skills and knowledge, state stigmatization and criminalization against their advocacy work, and limited advocacy network among those who work at national, regional or international level.[4]

The question that subsequently comes to mind is: where have the civil society and CSOs been for the past 10 years since 1998 reformation (reformasi 1998)? What have they ‘won’ through CSOs advocacy? Why are the achievements in SSR below expectations? What are the obstacles, challenges, and opportunities that CSOs have had for the past 10 years in conducting SSR advocacy?

Key words

Security Sector Reform, Military, Police, Intelligence, Parliament oversights, Civil Society Organizations, advocacy, human rights, legislation,

An Introduction

Basically, security is fundamental to people’s livelihoods. It relates to personal and state safety, access to social services and political processes. It is a core government responsibility, necessary for economy, and vital for the protection of human rights. Security matters to the poor and other vulnerable groups, especially women and children, because bad policing, weak justice and penal systems, and corrupt militaries, polices and intelligence agencies mean that they suffer disproportionately from crime, violation, insecurity and fear.[5]

SSR concept itself refers to a continuous effort made by security sector stakeholders (parliament, government and security actors) together with civil society to encourage changes in policy, governance, and security institutions from the old authoritarian system into a new and more democratic system. Such changes are marked by the birth of democratic security policies, changes in the relation between civil government and security actors in administration, concern and compliance to the universal values as governed by the concepts of democratic state and international laws, available check and balance mechanism between parliament-government-security actors, establishment of an independent law enforcement system, and adequate room for participation and complaint for society.[6]

The above concept shows that SSR agenda everywhere cannot be separated from political process and support from various groups, including from internal security actors. Apart from a support that comes from the momentum when the state or government is faced with no other alternatives but to encourage reformation, an effort that civil society has long pioneered can serve as a useful input to accelerate the process and the quality of changes it results in. This also applies in SSR context in Indonesia after more or less 10 years since 1998.

It needs to be acknowledged that long time before the fall of Soeharto regime, CSOs had initiated to encourage democracy and political changes, although it was not as strong as the 1997-1998 movement. The New Order (Orde Baru) government supported by military power and with its policy of political and economic stability was criticized and pressured by a few NGOs, especially those based on human rights and development issues. Together with critical academia and journalist community, these NGOs were the initiators of student movements in campuses, actions by sector groups (labours, farmers, and fishermen), victim community movements (especially victims of development policy such as eviction) and movement by former New Order political prisoners. Near the end of the New Order era, their investment started to pay off: an almost simultaneous movement by all civil society elements to bring Soeharto government down.[7]

SSR ideas arising post 1998 were the continuation of discourses persisting among the 1980s movement. There were at least three groups of critical discourses regarding security sector during about 30 years of New Order administration:

  1. Resistance against New Order political policy that was dominated by Soeharto’s decisions and those of the military in government. The dual-function of the Indonesian Armed Forces (Dwi-fungsi Angkatan Bersenjata Republik Indonesia/ABRI) and the Territorial Command Structure were pointed out as entry points to legitimate political activities performed by high military officials at judicial, legislative and executive levels, as well as their involvement in economic sectors. Such discourse of the army’s Dual-function was accompanied by others such as civil-military relationship, role of military in a democratic state, and military-civil leadership.
  2. Criticism against the Armed Forces’ repressive role (where the police was also included) that was considered excessive and in violations against human rights, both in facing “separatism” issues in critical areas such as Aceh, Papua and East Timor, and in responding to society’s resistance against government’s development policies. The universal values of human rights were used as parameters to assess and criticize the army’s violence that resulted in victims among the society.
  3. Resistance against Soeharto’s figure who tended to grow more into a corrupt tyrant as his power continued. The effectiveness in the management of social, political and economic powers under his military cronies not only resulted in political resistance but also opened the eyes of the public after watching his practices of cronyism, nepotism and corruption grew more blatant and ended in economic crises. The discourses of bringing Soeharto down, revoking the army’s dual-function, eradicating Collusion, Corruption and Nepotism (Kolusi, Korupsi dan Nepotisme) became the ultimate key to forcing Soeharto to relinquish his power.

After the fall of Soeharto’s regime, civil society continued to carry out a number of efforts to encourage, influence and monitor reformation process. This included efforts to ensure that reformation also occurred in security sector. There were at least three major agenda of civil society in the first three years post May 1998 (1998-2001):[8]

  1. Agenda of transitional justice: this included especially how to stop the army’s practices of violence and brutality carried on from the New Order era –including the police as part of ABRI, to build fair and accountable law enforcement mechanism against those practices, and to develop a formula of national reconciliation in line with the transition and reformation agenda;
  2. Agenda of political transition: this included an amendment to the 1945 Constitution, enactment of several MPR decrees – such as those related to the formation of clean government free of collusion, corruption and nepotism, to human rights, to the separation between the Indonesian National Army (Tentara Nasional Indonesia, TNI) and the Indonesian Police (Kepolisian Negara Republik Indonesia, POLRI) and to a dignified conflict resolution in Aceh and Papua—as well as to the amendment to existing laws and policies and the creation of new ones.
  3. Agenda of Strengthening Transitional Government: Disbandment of several institutions formed by the New Order regime, formation and strengthening of extra-judicial bodies, reordering of the central-regional government relationship, democratic election, development of freedom of expression and public access to government, and internal reformation formula in security institutions. Including on intelligence reform.

As time went, the government had to face several major issues post 1998 and political support towards the continuity of reformation and democracy acceleration decreased. This was marked by the decline in the quality of government legislations and policies from an idealistic nature to a more pragmatic nature, by the halt in reformation at government and state institutions, and by the lack of justice and the weak accountability of process and results of law enforcement efforts.

Up to 10 years after 1998, the strategic roles performed by CSOs have been varied, starting from the development of SSR discourse, formulation and advocacy of legislations and policies in security sector, accountability and transparency in the process and implementation of security policies, monitoring and complaints on the abuse and misuse of authorities, to violations of law involving security actors, government and parliament.[9]

Apart from those significant efforts, the facts show that SSR dynamics in several periods of power after Soeharto (B.J. Habibie, Abdurrahman Wahid, Megawati Soekarnoputri, and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono/SBY) have not shown any significant changes. The reformation package demanded in 1998 is ignored years after years, while the mainstream of public pressure and state accommodation moves towards symbolical instead of substantial reformation. This can be seen from some security sector policies that are poor in their implementation. A few of them might be in place but the monitoring on their implementation is partial and internal, depending on each security institution’s interpretation and interests – on what they would like to reform.[10]

However, CSOs admit that the currently existing political room and channels are more accommodating, open and generally better compared to that in the New Order era. In the New Order era, it was difficult to imagine the government and policy makers taking public aspirations into consideration when formulating policies. Similarly, it was difficult to imagine the same people ‘willing’ to involve CSOs in their decision-making process.

Significance of CSOs Achievements in SSR Advocacy

Institute for Defense, Security and Peace Studies (IDSPS) concluded in its research that the dynamics of SSR advocacy in the last 10 years have been more or less focused and involved coalitions with many different actors and approaches. The dynamics have also entered more than political problems, and more into the formulation of technocratic solutions in security sectors such as defense concept, security concept, postures of security and defense institutions, budget policy and development of military and police curriculum for their education in academy or training.

Such dynamics are influenced by at least several factors namely 1). The compromise and accommodation of old elite groups, who used to play active role during New Order era, at judicial, legislative and executive levels towards public demands regarding SSR; 2). The emergence of newly elected politicians from old and new political parties, who are being more accommodative towards democratic transition agenda or stand up for public interests; 3). The availability of public access to security sector policy drafts, process and policy making at parliament and government, although it is yet to be accompanied by massive involvement in the formulation process and the substance is yet to fulfill public expectations; and 4). The existence of pressure and support from various countries and international community for SSR agenda in Indonesia, directly or indirectly –such in past human rights abuses accountability or amendment of laws that against the international human rights principles and norms.[11]

At this macro level, CSOs achievements far exceeded the minimum expectations in SSR advocacy. The right momentum to push security actors in terms of security sector legislations and institutional changes is the key to these achievements. Indeed, the role of CSO during Megawati and SBY governments is generally lacking in orientation, partial, without consensus and clear distribution of work, and seems to be more pragmatic. However, such condition is believed by CSOs to have been influenced by the dynamics of national and international politics that tend to be inconsistent in safeguarding the democratic transition.[12]

Difficulties to Overcome the Obstacles and Challenges in SSR

Outside the factors elaborated above, CSOs are still faced with resistance from security actors in their advocacy work as well as state’s ambiguous political stand and the lack of support from the political elites. Such tendencies resulted in CSOs choice of SSR agenda and strategies that are more realistic in accordance with each of their own capacity and program direction, such as in particular cases and policies, instead of consolidation and joint efforts in safeguarding SSR issues as expected in 1997-1998.

CSOs dealt with issues related to the commitment of TNI, POLRI and BIN in terms of their view points, interpretation and implementation of democratic values in the changes of constitution and several legislations. CSOs think that political and economic situations are not fully stabilized and this always tempts the institutions to commit any actions that will be politically and economically beneficial and ensure that they remain the centre of legitimacy for anyone who is in power. Megawati and SBY government clearly shows their political dependency to those powers by not giving pressure and encouragement to ensure that the paradigm and performance of those security institutions are consistent with the spirit of reformation and principles of democracy. One thing that is of concern is that the security actors involved are merely providing tentative loyalty that is highly dependent on political development, as seen when President Habibie and President Wahid received political pressure.

Military’s analysis on threats still places CSOs as an internal threat against national integrity and NKR. Such views arise because TNI is still under the perception that human rights issues and law enforcement against members of TNI and POLRI promoted by human rights CSOs are merely issues ‘sponsored’ by the Western world in order to divide the country and to weaken the security institution. As a reaction to such perspective, some human rights organizations became resistant to any state actions that they perceive as threatening their existence.

CSOs feel that the recent government itself is no longer enthusiastic about taking the initiative to continue the process of reformation within TNI, let alone about taking SSR ideas that CSOs are promoting. On the other hand, SBY seems to be building the loyalty of the army, police and intelligence to himself rather than creating a democratic control structure. He dramatically succeeded in increasing his influence and becoming a centre of legitimacy for those institutions’ interests, creating fragments of elite security actors obedience only to civil political institutions possessing similar points of view as their own, and slowly giving back opportunities for security actors to perform ‘practical politics’, just like in the past.

Meanwhile, the parliament seems ‘busy’ with each group or party’s own political interests instead of encouraging, evaluating, monitoring and taking a stand on various SSR issues that are halted. At a certain level, such attitude of promoting their own interests is an obstacle against SSR due to the resulting ineffectiveness if legislation and monitoring functions and the tendency to only encourage and support legislations and policies that are against the spirit of reformation. Discourses developed by elite parties and members of parliaments tend to steer away from SSR substance, which in the end arises a paradox where democracy issues and values are interpreted and directed to justify their interests, ones that are undoubtedly far from public aspirations. Indeed, formal and symbolic reformation occurs in their hands, but it is full of substantial problems that can one day turn into a political boomerang in terms of decisions that are compromised with pro status quo interests, anti-reformation and even anti- democracy.

Closing; Challenges in SSR and Strengthening of CSO

It is indisputable that attention and efforts are needed to overcome obstacles in improving our security and defense condition. Several strategic measures in the future are:

  1. Increase the effectiveness of coordination between institutions and sectors relevant to the issues of threats against defense and security to reformulate the basis of operational policy, direction and objectives of defense and security system development to be more in line with the postures and strategies of national defense and security strategies.
  2. Increase the effectiveness of control functions that legislative institutions have on government, monitoring functions on the implementation of legislations and policies in defense sector, and evaluation functions on abuse and misuse.
  3. Strengthening the political commitment of executive bodies and security and defense actors to democracy transition by making concrete efforts in the form of pro-people actions and policies, by being consistent to democratic values and by being politically accountable.
  4. Providing adequate support to increase the professionalism of security apparatus while building a control mechanism and strengthening civil political authorities that manage the control. This includes the involvement of experts from civil society.
  5. State’s serious accountability in criminal cases resulted from its misuse of authorities and its political interests in maintaining stability in line with global capitalism interests. Justice and accountability over past cases is not merely lessons for future changes but also needed to avoid impunity and continuation of violence and power abuse by security apparatus.
  6. Encouraging government’s consistency in eliminating political rooms for security actors at national level (through presidential cabinet and strategic state bodies/department) and at regional level (Muspida).
  7. Promoting civil society capacity so that they can play an active role in policy making and monitoring government’s performance. At the very least, civil society needs to understand more about security and defense issues and to be able to work more professionally in encouraging changes.
  8. Involving international stakeholders to encourage, impart knowledge, monitor and exert influence through cooperation with government in strengthening civil society advocacy.

In the Indonesian context, the existence of CSOs and media that are strong and able to work consistently, harmoniously and sustainably is a prerequisite to strengthen SSR agenda, especially in giving input to government and security actors and in relation to the need for monitoring the performance of security sector institutions. CSOs can provide more independent views and concepts, based on real issues in society, and supported by field facts and good theoretical framework. Professional media can also assist in giving accurate and quality information to motivate community’s attention and involvement in policy formulation and safeguarding it in security sector.

As one of the central powers to safeguard democratic transition and SSR in Indonesia, CSOs are demanded to continuously consolidate and reformulate their advocacy strategies. At minimum, the 1998 experience shows evidence of CSO’s strategic role which is expected to be able to develop three patterns of security sector reform advocacy in the future: strengthening their influences on government and policy makers, maintaining consistency in their role as control and pressure group in strategic security sector policies, and strengthening society’s discourse and understanding of SSR urgency.

Furthermore, CSOs in Indonesia are also demanded to improve their internal capacity, at the very least in relation to solving the following problems:

  • Professionalism: Lack of knowledge and limited understanding on issues and how to create good advocacy on it, when on the other side public trust and expectation to them is still significant.
  • Internal consolidation between CSOs: How to share and to work together, especially when recent political situation does not fully support their advocacy.
  • Networking: SSR mostly became a very limited “CSOs” issue; although some CSOs are concerned about it, collaboration among them is still limited.
  • Image: Security actors still place CSOs as an ‘annoyance’ to state interest and as agents of Western interests instead of being truly independent in action.

The above function and role require consolidation and reformulation of advocacy strategies in line with national and global political changes and the more pragmatic transition dynamics. CSOs can start by evaluating and critically observing their own advocacy experience in the past 10 years, while looking at the effectiveness and strategic cooperation among CSOs to ensure that future SSR objectives are achieved.

Jakarta, 3 June 2009

[1] Some of the content was taken from the Executive Summary of Institute for Defense, Security and Peace Studies’ Research on the Effectiveness of Civil Society Organizations’ Strategies in Security Sector Reform Advocacy during 1998-2006. This paper was prepared for a workshop held by the Indonesian Solidarity titled “Indonesian Security Sector Reform Post Soeharto’s Regime: Achievement and Prospects”, Sydney Mechanics School of Arts (SMSA), 12-13, 2009, in Sydney, Australia.

[2] Executive Director of the Institute for Defense, Security and Peace Studies (IDSPS), Jakarta,

[3] Mufti Makaarim & S. Yunanto, The Effectiveness of Civil Society Organization Advocacy Strategies in Security Sector Reform in Indonesia 1998-2006 (Jakarta: IDSPS, 2008), p. xxiv

[4] Ibid

[5] See The OECD DAC Handbook on Security System Reform (SSR), Supporting Security and Justice, p. 15

[6] See A Beginner’s Guide to Security Sector Reform (SSR), (UK: GFN-SSR & DFID, March 2007), p. 3-4

[7] See Mufti Makaarim A., “The Role of Civil Society Organizations in Security Sector Reform” in Beni Sukadis (Ed.), Almanac Indonesia 2007 Security Sector Reform (Jakarta; Lesperssi & DCAF, 2007), p. 127-129

[8] Mufti Makaarim & S. Yunanto, op. Cit. p. 10-15

[9] Mufti Makaarim A., “The Role of Civil Society Organizations in Security Sector Reform”, Ibid.

[10] Reformation of Indonesian National Army is Still Partial and Internal, Kompas, 14 November 2006

[11] Mufti Makaarim & S. Yunanto, op. Loc., p. xxvi

[12] The pragmatism of international agendas such as war against terrorism believed as an important factor influenced the regression of government concern to SSR agendas as mandated in 1998. The cancelation of military restriction by US government for example, triggered confidence among the military by issuing opinion about US acknowledgement for their reform and make them bold to refuse all of justice process and accusation of human rights violation in the past.