JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post / Asia News Network): The army’s new chief of staff, General Dudung Abdurachman, has said he wants to restore New Order-style public security oversight by the military , raising fears that it limits civic space.
Speaking daily to Kompas during his visit to Papua on November 19, Dudung called on the military to be sensitive to the development of the far left and far right, especially any group that attempts to commit radical acts.
âIf there is any information, I will implement the measures taken during the time of Pak Harto. Babinsa [non-commissioned officers] even have to know if a needle falls, âhe said, quoted by the daily Kompas, referring to the former strongman Soeharto.
He added that the movement was part of the army’s seven daily orders and asked Babinsa at the village level to immediately coordinate with the police and take decisive action if they encountered such information. “
So if there are organizations that are trying to disrupt the unity and integrity [of the nation], do not discuss too much, do not think too much, but do it, “said the former commander of the Army Strategic Reserve (Pangkostrad).
His instructions drew criticism from civilian groups, with many claiming that stepping up the military’s involvement in civil affairs by encouraging Babinsa to gather intelligence and take village-level action against extremism would betray the spirit of the political reform era of 1998.
The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) urged Dudung to abandon his plan to deploy armed forces to combat radicalism, as it was the task of the police and the National Anti-Radical Agency. terrorism (BNPT).
Rivanlee Iskandar of Kontras said such remarks ignored the consequences of the stigmatization of certain groups and increased repression by the military.
âThe instruction of the chief of the army could be used by the soldiers on the ground as justification to stigmatize various groups considered as radical; not to mention, the definition and standard of what constitutes radicals has been based solely on the government’s interpretation. “
During the New Order regime, Babinsa was deployed as a political tool to keep tabs on groups and individuals considered subversive, as well as to ensure that the public voted for the regime’s political machine, the Golkar Party.
Political Link Dudung was inaugurated in mid-November by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo as the new Army Chief of Staff, replacing General Andika Perkasa, who was installed the same day as new commander of the Indonesian army (TNI).
Dudung has elite ties, like Andika, who is the son-in-law of AM Hendropriyono, a former head of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) involved in Jokowi’s presidential campaign in 2014.
Dudung’s father-in-law, the late (retired) Major General Cholid Ghozali, was on the supervisory board of Baitul Muslim in Indonesia, the umbrella organization of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) to achieve Islamic voters, in 2011.
Dudung, as governor of the then Military Academy, built a statue of Founding President Sukarno on the academy’s premises in early 2020, attracting the attention of the PDI-P and President Megawati. Soekarnoputri.
âIt became a turning point, in which [the perception that] Karno drain [Sukarno] was not a changed friend of the army, âUtut Adianto, senior political leader of the PDI-P, told Kompas TV on November 17.
Dudung’s maneuvers continued with the renovation of the Military Academy Hospital, which was later named after the uncle of the Minister of Defense and Party Chairman Gerindra Prabowo Subianto, Soebianto Djojohadikusumo.
Prabowo opened the hospital in July 2020. While analysts have said he ticked all the boxes needed to be the Army Chief of Staff, that’s not the only reason his name has been around, especially among the public.
Dudung is known for his tough actions against the defunct Front of Defenders of Islam (FPI) in November of last year, while serving as head of the Jakarta Military Command (Kodam Jaya). He called for the dissolution of the REIT, which had not yet been dissolved at the time because it often circumvented the law.
He also ordered his men to remove FPI banners and billboards and openly confronted the radical group. As a show of force, he deployed military vehicles to patrol in front of the FPI headquarters.
Dudung later clarified that his calls to disband the FPI were his personal opinion and not the official position of the military. Although the move drew much criticism from civilian groups, it reportedly rewarded him with the Pangkostrad post in June this year.
In September, Dudung again made waves after declaring that “all religions are true in the sight of God” and avoided fanaticism towards any religion when he called on the forces to be wise in the world. use of social media, causing a stir with the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI).
Military analyst Khairul Fahmi of the Institute for Security and Strategic Studies (ISES) said Dudung’s tendency to make controversial comments and overstep his authority could pose a problem within the military.
“He must be able to support the commander in the performance of his duties by strictly observing laws and regulations,” Khairul said.
âFocusing on capacity building and service integrity should be his top priority. “
Military expert Anton Aliabbas said that while he seemed to show the same commitment as the president to the fight against radicalism, that should not mean that the military should become involved in an autonomous and active way.
“It takes a political consensus between the executive and the legislature to carry out such a [counterterrorism] measure, because it falls under non-war military operations, âhe said.
Echoing Khairul, Anton added that Dudung should refrain from making remarks that could potentially become controversial, as it would only disrupt and overshadow his work.