69 Dispatch from Furlonger to Willesee

Jakarta, 13 December 1974



The Indonesian Armed Forces and the Future

Part 1: The Present Role

Indonesia is commonly regarded as a military regime. Its defenders maintain that it is not; while its detractors find evidence that it is. Neither are quite right. In this despatch, I have sought to set out the subtle nature of the influence exercised by the military in Indonesia.

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The Formulation of Policy

Policy formulation tends to be invisible and dominated by the military. Policy is not decided by Parliament and only rarely by Cabinet. As a collective body, Cabinet has little say. Cabinet acts mainly as a committee of review that endorses decisions already taken in principle elsewhere. (This is, of course, not unusual in a presidential system of government: the United States Cabinet is hardly any more important.) Important decisions in whatever field, will certainly have been referred first to the President. Only then will the subject be presented to Cabinet. Partly, but not entirely, there is little discussion and even less debate because of the custom of arriving at a consensus beforehand. But the system goes beyond consensus-building alone: major decisions are taken in principle beforehand because they must have the endorsement of the military.

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The Formulation of Foreign Policy

In the foreign policy field, the military allows Foreign Minister Malik and his Ministry to decide without interference external questions that do not affect national security policy, that is, minor and routine questions. Most major issues affecting the Asian-Pacific region are seen as having national security implications, and the military plays a major role in advising the President, although the Foreign Ministry participates fully in the process.

When General Soemitro was head of KOPKAMTIB-the security command which was almost a shadow government-an informal system was built around him and which he dominated. Since Soemitro went, a more formal hierarchy of committees to frame national security policy has been established. At the bottom is a committee at the Secretary-General level, consisting of representatives of the Foreign Ministry, the Defence Department, the Department of Internal Affairs and the State Intelligence Organisation, BAKIN. It is chaired by Lt. General Daryatmo, the principal military officer responsible for overseeing the dual function role of the Armed Forces.

Above this committee of officials, there is a ministerial committee consisting of General Panggabean (Defence Minister), Mr Malik (Foreign Minister), the Minister for Internal Affairs (Lt. General Amir Machmud) and the national intelligence agency BAKIN (sometimes represented by Lt. General Yoga, the BAKIN Head, sometimes by his nominal deputy, Lt. General Ali Murtopo; but not apparently by both together). Before the January riots, a comparable committee was always chaired by General Soemitro. Now the chairmanship rotates between the three Ministers; although the military voice is normally the decisive one, this is not invariably so. To take one important recent example-that of Portuguese Timor-an alliance of moderate views between the Foreign Ministry and Ali Murtopo has checked the wilder ideas of some of the military 'hawks' led by the G1 in the Defence Department (Major General Benny Moerdani) and El Tari (the Governor in Indonesian Timor). President Soeharto resolved a dispute between the doves and the hawks by coming down in favour of the former- representing largely civilian views.

At the peak of the national security committee structure is the Political and Security Stabilisation Council. This body is chaired by the President, who also receives independent advice through informal channels such as from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. The CSIS is Ali Murtopo's civilian 'think-tank', and its importance derives from Ali's close and characteristically Indonesian personal bond with the President. The Embassy has found that its quickest and most effective channel to the President is through this free-wheeling and predominantly civilian group. Ali Murtopo himself is a civilian in all but name.

The Key Political Personalities

On important policy matters, the President, whose dominance of the whole system has increased since the departure of General Soemitro, may often rely primarily on these informal sources of advice. Most of these trusted private advisers are military people: his former Private Assistants (ASPRI), Lt. General Ali Murtopo and Major-General Sudjono Humardani; the Head of the State Intelligence Agency (BAKIN), Lt. General Yoga Soegama; the State Secretary (akin to the Head of the White House staff in Washington), Lt. General Sudharmono; and other selected ABRI individuals, such as Admiral Sudomo (Chief of Staff of KOPKAMTIB), Lt. General Tjokropranolo (the President's Military Secretary) and Major General Benny Moerdani (G1 HANKAM), a young and rising Catholic general. Moerdani's links with Ali Murtopo's Catholic advisers are notable and important.

An important civilian adviser, who works closely with the Palace group, is Mashuri, the Minister for Information. Mashuri is a Javanese intellectual and lawyer, who had been a political adviser to the late General Yani till 1965 and was the man who, in the early morning of 1 October 1965, broke the news of the attempted coup to General Soeharto. When the President feared possible assassination after the January riots this year, it was to Mashuri that he spoke in nominating General Surono as his heir in such an event.

Surono is the senior soldier from Central Java and currently Deputy Commander of the Armed Forces. Surono is a rather enigmatic personality. Pleasant, approachable, popular among the rank and file though he is, there are some who doubt his capacity and leadership quality. But others say that his blandness, personal modesty and self-possession are qualities very acceptable to the Javanese. We shall probably never know: Surono is of much the same era [as] Soeharto, and his succession would only come about if Soeharto were to die or be displaced by his military contemporaries in the early future. This is unlikely.

The key military officers around Soeharto are drawn largely from the small group of Javanese officers-increasingly from Central Java, and the Diponegoro Division-who have been closely associated with the President professionally, and often personally, for many years. They should not be regarded as constituting a tight and recognizable group; there are various individuals and groups around the President, who are consulted on different matters, loosely connected with one another by tradition, similarity of outlook and identity of purpose. Above all, they are people the President trusts. They form his court.

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Concluding Observations

What, then, may one conclude about the nature of military influence in Indonesia? Contrary to early hopes of the regime, and indeed of trends before the disaster of the January riots, the influence of the military, both political and economic, is dominant and in some ways becoming more pervasive with time. It is, however, informal, unstructured, highly personalised, often invisible, not constitutionally accountable-and its hold is not absolute, as military influence is often shared with civilians in important respects. The armed forces are regarded as an indispensable backdrop for the maintenance of internal security, which gives them an important but not automatic or concerted say over policy, and they form a vital part of the country's administration.

By general standards, this must be considered as falling something short of a military regime in the strict understanding of the term. More accurately, the regime may be considered as paternalistic and authoritarian, with enormous powers vested in and assumed by the President, and with a heavy bias towards internal order and stability. Until the January riots, it was more liberal than most South East Asian countries, although it has taken a large step backward since then.

President Soeharto relies on close advisers, most of whom are military, but in general from a limited section of the armed forces; and he uses ABRI to stiffen the administration of the country. He has, however, some important sources of civilian advice and does not invariably side with the military when they are at issue with civilians. Generally, the whole structure depends on a delicate balance being maintained between the courtiers-whether military or civilian, competing for influence at Soeharto's court. He himself is the /rajah, and a beneficiary of the submissiveness and the mystique that the Javanese court has traditionally attracted among Javanese. Any change of leadership in the early future would be bound to throw up another soldier; but the system would be likely to retain its essential Javanese characteristics: a generally benign paternalism centred around the President, and a loosely structured hierarchy largely military but dependent more on personalities than institutions.

[NAA: A1838, 3034/10/6/9, i]