Wiranto warns against hasty reforms


The Indonesian military advocates a measured approach towards political reform, warning that haste could lead to national instability and failure.

ARMED forces (Abri) chief General Wiranto on Thursday cautioned against hastening the pace of political reforms as it could undermine national stability.

He said that a team of senior officers, working on a concept paper of the military’s role in Indonesia, took this as a “serious consideration” after studying the experiences of other countries that tried to hasten change.

“The reform process has to be controlled. Our study has indicated that many countries that tried to achieve reforms failed because they were too fast and extreme,” he said.

“Indonesia’s social and political structure are unique and our solutions to problems would be different from other countries.”

Gen Wiranto did not cite the countries that the Abri team, headed by socio-political chief Bambang Yudhoyono, had studied when drawing up the draft concept paper, which was presented to President B. J. Habibie on Thursday.

But senior Abri officers have constantly been pointing to the former Soviet Union as an example of “failed democracy” because reforms were carried out “too fast”.

The fear here is that this sprawling archipelago with 17,000 islands could head that direction if the country plunged headlong into it.

Gen Wiranto’s comments take place against a backdrop of demonstrations in different parts of the country calling for
speedier political reform.

Last Thursday, Gen Wiranto asked Indonesians to give the new Habibie government a chance and warned that the military would crack down on groups which disrupted national stability with their demands for political change.

He has instructed the police chief and other senior military officers to take firm action against “unconstitutional” activities by groups using the tide of reform to pursue their own agendas.

But the military nevertheless supported the reform drive provided it was done gradually and in line with the Constitution.

The four-star general said that Abri’s concept paper contained short-term targets which could be achieved by year end.

Several observers here believe the military needs to reduce its political role to accelerate the country’s move towards democratic reform.

Political scientist Ryaas Rashid, who heads a seven-member team drafting new political laws, said that steps to do this could begin by further reducing the current 75 seats allocated to the military in Parliament.

Prof Ryaas, who is also rector of the Institute of Government Affairs, said the idea had been included in a draft of a new law on Parliament’s role.

But another high-ranking government official was sceptical that a civilian leadership could remain in power for long, given the pervasiveness of Abri at all levels of society.

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