A webinar to assess the impact of COVID-19 on TNI (Indonesian armed forces) military effectiveness and the nature of civil-military relations in Indonesia was held on 1 December 2020. The RSIS webinar looked into how the TNI could help win the fight against a pandemic, how its capability development for “military operations other than war” (MOOTW) could be shaped by the current environment, and whether the government’s excessive dependence on the TNI could hamper the ability of civilian institutions to handle similar challenges in the future.
While the involvement of the military in combating the pandemic has been seen as both expedient and necessary in light of the scale of the crisis across all 34 Indonesian provinces, parts of Indonesian society were concerned about a “slippery slope” in that the TNI’s growing non-military involvement could lead to a resurgence of its role in the civilian domain. LTC Frega Wenas Inkiriwang, a speaker at the webinar, rejected that point of view. He argued that COVID-19 had been a “strategic surprise” for countries around the world, and that many including the UK and US had deployed their militaries to respond to this unprecedented health crisis. In Indonesia, COVID-19 has been classified as a national emergency, which forms the basis for the TNI’s involvement in combating the pandemic.
In her presentation, Ms Diandra Megaputri Mengko highlighted that the “slippery slope” remained a present and growing concern among Indonesia’s defence analysts. She said that the main problem resided in the attitude of the civilian government, who has viewed the TNI as a “standby force for everything” and failed to take a political decision for any MOOTW as required under the TNI law. In closing, she argued that there should be clear and explicit restrictions on military involvement in non-military affairs so as to maintain military professionalism and healthy civil-military relations, as well as a democratic rule of law.
Catch it here on the RSISVideoCast YouTube channel: