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Indonesia Index


Navy helicopter taking off from patrol ship
Courtesy Indonesian Department of Information

Despite its pivotal role in the establishment of the republic, the armed forces did not initially seek to play a dominant political role in the formative years of Indonesian parliamentary democracy. Although it appears that military leaders desired national political power, they seemed to have understood they could not achieve it solely through the exercise of force. It was circumstances rather than deliberate planning that pressed the armed forces to gradually enlarge their role in the nation. As it consolidated each stage of its growing political power, however, the military leadership was reluctant to surrender its gains. By the early 1990s, the inculcation of the Pancasila and the institutionalization of the dwifungsi principle under the laws of the nation, however, have provided the military with an unprecedented degree of legitimacy in Indonesia's political affairs.

In late 1982, the DPR put the dwifungsi principle on firm legal ground when it replaced the old 1954 defense law with a new one expressly stating that ABRI is both a military and a social force. The new law, unlike its predecessor, is based on the principles of Pancasila and the 1945 constitution, and confers formal legitimacy on the wide-ranging powers exercised by the armed forces in the name of preserving and strengthening national resilience. The government's sanction of dwifungsi recognized the need for ABRI's continued influence in the basic national infrastructure so that national development would buttress national defense.

ABRI's involvement in the national life included the assignment of both active-duty and retired military personnel to civil administrative and policy positions. Gradually, as stability came to the economic sector, military personnel withdrew from the economic policy-making area, and by 1980 all active-duty personnel had left their positions in non-defense- related economic enterprises, although they remained active in military-owned and -managed businesses. These businesses were primarily in the sectors of plantation agriculture, timber cultivation and harvest, and transportation. Retired military officers continued to run some nationalized firms and militaryowned enterprises, although they frequently hired civilian managers.

Data as of November 1992

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