During the fall of Suharto in Indonesia, the military played a significant role as both the silent enforcer and active peace maker. This was triggered by the implementation of the dual function of the military in other unrelated fields.
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In most countries, the military is expected to be neutral in intervention in political issues. In Indonesia, the military has so much political powers. Suharto heavily relied on the military in cultivating support in his leadership. The military had excessive political powers. This undermined its security functions.
The military’s informal functions during extreme internal political conflicts
- Guarding state sovereignty against internal factional politics between political parties.
- Involvement in the cabinet matters.
- Organizational relations between the military and the Golkar party to cultivate legitimacy.
Before the year 1998, the military still had extreme powers in Indonesia. It had a number of informal functions during extreme internal political conflicts. The military was intensively involved in the cabinet matters. For instance, some of the military staff were appointed in cabinet.
Guarding state sovereignty against internal fractional politics between political parties
During the reign of Suharto, the military was used in guiding the sovereignty of the state by protecting the ruling party against fractional politics. Suharto used the influence of the military to exercise dictatorship.
During the Suharto’s ruling, the military was a very influential tool used in development of political parties. The military played a major role in protecting the ruling party from losing to other parties. In other words, the military was biased towards the ruling party. It played a major role in guarding the ruling party.
Organizational relations between the military and the Golkar party to cultivate legitimacy
The military was impartial and was more inclined to the Golkar party and therefore undermining democracy.
During this period, the military was biased towards one political party which is Golkar. This party benefited from the favor from the military over other parties. This violated the issue of democracy because the party did not mind much about fulfilling the needs of the people because it had the military which significantly contributed to its success (Bhakti, Yanuarti and Nurhasim 2009.).
Members of the military filled the positions of which they lost control after Suharto’s fall
- Seats in the DPR (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat-House of Representatives).
- Mayers Governors.
- Regional political involvement.
The staff members of the military were given positions which did not match their roles. For instance, appointment in the cabinet was not in line with the military duties. The military was also involved in regional politics which was aimed at winning people’s support. Other unique positions includes governor and Mayer’s positions.
The military had social and political authorities at the district, sub-district and regional levels which were weakened after 1998
During this period, the military had political powers at different regional levels. For instance, there were district and sub-district levels. This was used as a political tool to win more political control rather than defence. This undermined the defence purpose of the military.
Although the military had already gasped a significant influence in the political arena, this power was dissolved after the fall of Suharto in 1998. After his fall, many changes were made which were directed towards minimization of the influence of the military in politics. This has promoted democracy in the government operations.
Involvement in the cabinet matters
According to Bhakti (2002), the military was extensively involved in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth cabinets. This is contrary to arrangement in other countries like Australia where the military is expected to be neutral. The involvement of the military in the politics decreased with time. However, this remained till the fall of Suharto. Conversely, during the 2004 election, there was no member of military was appointed in the cabinet.
In most countries, the military is supposed to carry out security functions without interruptions through politics. This is aimed at maintaining efficiency and effectiveness in its operations.
The involvement of the military in the politics decreased with time. However, this remained till the fall of Suharto. However, during the 2004 election, there was no member of military was appointed in the cabinet.
Role of the Military in Indonesia
- Security together with the people and related state bodies.
As already indicated, the role of the military in Indonesia was of great importance. However, the involvement f the military in politics significantly undermined the performance of the military. According to Ufen (2006), in order to have a high performing military force, the military must refrain from engagement in politics. Due to involvement of military in politics during this time, the Indonesian military became more professional; in politics and less professional in providing defence in the country.
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Impacts of Pervasive role of military in Indonesia
- Lack of democratic life in Indonesia.
- Violation of basic rights (Beeson 2010).
Soon after the fall of Suharto, many people rose against the involvement of the military in politics. This was because of the adverse effects the socio-political role of the military had on the people. The defence competence of the military was violated because the military professional spent more time seeking political influence rather than dealing with critical defence issues. Democracy was also affected because the military was obviously biased through political orientation (Vatikiotis 2004).
- To what extent has the military been involved in politics past Suharto’s era?
- What were the advantages of the military involvement in politics before Suharto’s fall?
- How successful is the process of neutralizing the involvement of military in politics?
- What are the main obstacles facing the government in an effort to neutralize the military involvement in politics in Indonesia?
- What were the main factors that contributed to Suharto’s fall even with the support of the military?
From this discussion, there are a number of issues which emanates. After the Suharto’s fall in 1998, some aspects of military involvement in politics can still be detected. For instance, through regional divisions.
Beeson, M. 2010. Civil-Military Relations in Indonesia and the Philippines. Web.
Bhakti, I. 2002. The Transition to Democracy in Indonesia: Some Outstanding Problems. Web.
Bhakti, I., Yanuarti, S. and Nurhasim, M. 2009. Military Politics, Ethnicity and Conflict in Indonesia. CRISE WORKING PAPER No. 62.
Ufen, A. 2006. Political Parties in Post-Suharto Indonesia: Between politik aliran and ’Philippinisation’. Web.
Vatikiotis, M . 2004. Indonesian Politics under Suharto: The Rise and fall of the New Order. New York: Routledge.