Indonesia’s military has failed to dismantle its “dangerous business empire” as ordered under a 2004 law designed to enhance civilian rule in the budding democracy, a human rights watchdog said yesterday.
Promises of increased oversight by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a retired general, were “totally inadequate” and left the military unaccountable to government, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report.
“It’s outrageous that despite the parliamentary directive the government has no plan to take over ownership or management of a single business,” report author Lisa Misol said in a statement. “Promising to monitor them more closely simply isn’t good enough.”
Despite a 2004 law ordering the military (TNI) to get out of the business sector by the end of last year, the generals still control 23 foundations and more than 1,000 cooperatives, including ownership of 55 companies, the report says. These interests had gross assets worth US$350 million in 2007 and turned a profit of US$28.5 million, official figures cited by the report show.
Yudhoyono issued a decree on Oct. 11 promising greater oversight, but HRW said the measures merely entailed a partial restructuring of the business entities and required no divestment.
An inter-ministerial oversight team established on Nov. 11 has no clear authority, lacks independence and is not required to report publicly, HRW said.
“Nor do the new measures address accountability for human rights violations and economic crimes associated with military business activities,” the group said, citing examples including the killing of protesters by military personnel.
In 2007 in Pasuruan, East Java, HRW said navy personnel opened fire on villagers who were protesting over expropriations of land by the navy decades earlier, killing four.
The sailors were providing security for a state-owned company that had leased the land from the navy to operate a plantation.
“In other examples, the military has had a prominent role in large timber operations that have displaced communities from their ancestral lands and fueled rampant illegal logging,” HRW said.
“Military units providing protection services to companies have earned off-budget cash payments, raising serious corruption concerns ... The military also has been implicated in illegal businesses and extortion operations,” the report said.
A spokesman for Yudhoyono refused to comment on the HRW report and military press officers were unavailable.
HRW said moneymaking ventures by the military “contribute to crime and corruption, impede military professionalism and distort the function of the military itself.”