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interview with Yenny Wahid

IndonesiaCIA The World Factbook

YI: That's a good point. You also mentioned internal conflicts in Indonesia as a serious threat. Could they really be a threat to the unity of the country?

Rizal Sukma: There are two kinds of internal conflicts that we need to pay attention to. Number one is the threat of armed seccessionist tendencies in a number of areas. But like in Aceh, the problem has been resolved. I don't see a conflict resolution yet, because it can relapse. In many conflicts, such as the one in Aceh, we must wait five to seven years before we can say for sure whether the peace process will hold. The process so far is quite encouraging. But there are problems also in Papua and maybe in south Maluku. The other kind of internal conflict in my view is more dangerous --and this communal violence. But if such a spark threatens territorial integrity of the country, communal violence threatens the social integrity of the country. In my view, this is more important than a piece of land owned by a country. This thing is more dangerous. We need to pay more attention to communal violence, try to resolve it and seek ways to prevent it in the future. That in my view, is the conflict that can really undermine the unity of the country as a whole.

YI: What do you think has been done to address this problem?

Rizal Sukma: The government claims to have done a lot to resolve these conflicts in Maluku, in Kalimantan and in other parts of the country, as in Poso. But I'm not sure whether the peace now is the outcome of a deliberate act of conflict resolution. There is a possibility that the people themselves have actually already reached the conflict situation. That means, the possibility for another conflict to erupt is still there. I think we need to look at other conditions that can actually create space, where people no longer need to resort to violence, like addressing all the grievances that they have. That, in my view, the government has not done yet.

YI: Let's talk about other non-traditional threats. You mentioned infectious diseases, like bird flu, which is happening around the region. And there's pollution. What is being done to address those threats?

Rizal Sukma: On the bird flu, there have been measures carried out by the government, but the problem is really the lack of education and also the level of poverty within the communities. These two factors make it very difficult for the government, and even for international organizations to assist us, to address these kinds of problems. This is because of the lack of understanding of how this kind of threat can multiply in a very short time. It puts us right on the spotlight of the international community --that Indonesia might be the source of new strains of infectious diseases like bird flu. Now, we are the country where the largest number of bird flu victims are to be found. In fact, the way we address this problem is quite isolated. We only treat the bird flu problem per se, but in fact, the emergence of bird flu and other infectious diseases is much wider. So, prevention is still very weak, we focus on dealing with the problem itself. We need to change this. We need to look at the preventive side of all diseases, and what measures should be taken.

YI: Prevention is also lacking in how the pollution problem is being dealt with.

Rizal Sukma: Yes. Indonesia is one country where basically all kinds of rules and regulation exist, but the problem is that despite all the rules, problems still occur. So the problem is in the implementation, implementation, implementation. This has been stressed many, many times, by a lot of people. But we still face the same problems and the same questions. The problem, especially the pollution generated by the forest fires, is also linked to the wider corporate interest of the state, and also of our business community. I'm not sure we can just blame the people for burning the forests, not to mention their lack of capacity to deal with those forest fires. And there's the legal uncertainty, the lack of law enforcement. That's part of the problem. So, it's not only in the area of the haze or the forest fires, but almost across the board in the country. So if we talk about all these issues, it's easy for us to talk about perspectives, but it's not only the lack of attention given by the government but also the lack of public pressure for the government to do more.

YI: You are also involved in efforts to reform the military in Indonesia, such as participating in drafting the 2002 defense law. In your opinion, is the military now democratized?

Rizal Sukma: If we use the scale of zero to 10, I think what we have done so far from 1999, is to push reforms from zero to six. The challenge now is how to push from six to 10. That's the ideal condition. We started military reforms actually with just one agenda --how to push for military withdrawal from politics. That we have achieved by 2004. We now have regulations and laws that forbid the military to be involved in politics. In fact in the 2004 elections, the military managed to demonstrate that they can be neutral. So, in that context, the issue of the military in politics has been resolved. We have achieved something very significant, in my view. Now, the agenda is basically to push for what I call defense recall, because we cannot have a professional military unless you professionalize also defense spending and also defense budgeting, because all this leads to good governance in the defense sector. But we haven't done much in that area, even though now we still try to resolve the problem of the military's involvement in business. But all this defense reform agenda is still only on paper. So, the government has to be fast in moving the military from six to 10. We focused too much on the military's role in politics, which mind you, has been an achievement.

YI: So now the focus is on the problem of the military's business.

Rizal Sukma: Yes, not in the business sense of doing business. I think many of their companies this year have already gone bankrupt, and the remaining ones have been taken over by the government because that was the mandate given by the Armed Forces law, number 34/2004. Now, the Defense Minister is actually trying to come up with a new defense white paper where he tries to provide a vision for the proper defense role in which the military should play in the future. So they are still in the process of discussing this with parliament, and they are still going through public consultations. I see this as very positive, and the government is also doing something to bring more reforms to the military, even though two crucial issues have not been resolved yet. Number one is the culture of impunity. Until today this culture of impunity within the Armed Forces has not been resolved. Secondly is the issue of the territorial command structure, which makes it difficult for Indonesia to have a truly professional Armed Forces because they try to deal with the local government and also interact with society at that local level. So, unless we address these two problems, the scale of military reforms will be stuck somewhere between six and 10. It will never move out of under 10, not to mention the fact that in addition to Burma, Indonesia is the only other country where the armed forces is still not under the ministry of defense.

YI: Still a lot more work to go.

Rizal Sukma: Still a lot more work to do with military reforms.

YI: You have also been involved in forming a security framework for the ASEAN region. How has this been affected by problem member countries like Burma?

Rizal Sukma: The idea of transforming ASEAN into a security community back in 2003 came about as a direct response to all the questions that were being asked by our partners outside the region, like where ASEAN would be heading for the next 10 to 15 years. I thought ASEAN should consolidate into a political and security cooperation. And with that context --because we agreed on transforming ASEAN into an economic community-- we also need to transform into a security community, because economic cooperation cannot be sustained unless we also have strong foundations for political security cooperation. So the idea for a regional community is basically the core of any regional community is an open and democratic society where people from different member countries share similar values and similar laws. In that context, we believe -- especially Indonesia-- that the more we move towards a democracy and respect for human rights, the better it is for the region. And then, we can a do lot of things together. But unfortunately, this kind of ideas are not well accepted, especially by conservative members of ASEAN. That is why, even in the ASEAN charter, we did not succeed in having a human rights mechanism. It only says, there shall be an ASEAN human rights body' but there's no mention on the scope of authority, the functions or whether an ASEAN citizen can complain to this body if his or her rights are being violated. Actually, we are still at the very bottom of the effort. But on the security issues, on non-traditional security issues are involved, almost all ASEAN countries agree that they should now cooperate on these issues, so the principle of sovereignty is not in the way anymore. Countries basically realize that their securities are inter-related and they should cooperate, when dealing on issues like piracy, terrorism and trans-boundary pollution and so forth. On the security side, it's easy to have cooperation, but on the foundations of the security, like respect for human rights, democratic norms, good governance, it is very difficult, simply because in Southeast Asia, we have absolute monarchy on the one hand, then we have two military juntas --military dictatorship, like in Burma. So how do you reconcile this into a regional community? It's really a big challenge for a country like Indonesia but also a big headache.

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