Indonesian government faces mounting criticism for choosing senior TNI official as interim regent

JAKARTA, May 30 (Jakarta Post/ANN): Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration is in hot water after appointing a senior Indonesian military (TNI) official as acting regent in Maluku despite the growing criticism, fueling new speculation about a “hidden agenda”. and raising concerns of a “prolonged controversy” over the opaque process of replacing hundreds of outgoing regional chiefs.

Interior Minister Tito Karnavian recently appointed Brigadier General Andi Chandra As’aduddin, head of the Central Sulawesi State Intelligence Agency (BIN) bureau, as acting regent of West Seram in Maluku, assuming leadership of the regent-elect whose term expired last week.

Strict security measures were in place as hundreds of police were seen on guard to secure the swearing-in of Andi, two other regents and a mayor by outgoing Maluku Governor Murad Ismail in the provincial capital from Ambon last week.

Their appointment came amid simmering criticism over the lack of much-awaited new regulations detailing transparent and accountable procedures for reviewing interim leaders, as decided by the Constitutional Court in April.

The current regional electoral law of 2016 authorizes the government to appoint senior civil servants, such as general secretaries, general managers and provincial secretaries, as acting governors, regents and mayors until some 270 final leaders are elected. in the 2024 elections.

In its judicial opinion in a ruling on the appointment of interim regional chiefs, the court said the government should consider developing regulations that ensure “measurable and clear mechanisms” to ensure that it did not ignore democratic principles.

The regulations are expected to serve as regulations implementing the 2016 law, which prohibits serving military and police officers from running for area chiefs but says nothing about whether or not they can be appointed as acting chiefs.

The court also pointed out, citing the Civil Servants Act 2014, that TNI staff and police officers could be appointed to certain high-ranking government positions after being removed from office “if necessary and (if their) skills are matched through an open call for tenders”. and competitive process”.

This makes them eligible to serve as interim governors.

The 2004 TNI Act, meanwhile, stipulates that active military personnel can be seconded to other government institutions, which oversee defence, security or intelligence, such as the BIN.

Andi’s appointment drew strong disapproval from critics, including civil groups, who called on the government to revoke Andi’s appointment.

The groups, such as the Center for Political Studies at the University of Indonesia (Puskapol) and the Association for Elections and Democracy, have also urged the Interior Ministry to avoid bringing in active members. from the TNI and the National Police to fill the remaining positions. vacant seats because it went against democratic principles.

“This shows a weak commitment on the part of the Ministry of Interior in carrying out the reform mandate, implementing the rule of law and ensuring democratic principles in the appointment of interim regional leaders” , said Hurriyah of Puskapol.

The government, however, defended its decision, saying Andi’s appointment was based on a solid legal basis and did not violate any law or the Constitutional Court ruling.

Referring to Presidential Regulation No. 79/2020 on BIN, the Minister of Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform, Tjahjo Kumolo, said that provincial heads of BIN were considered as Tier II government officials and therefore could be appointed acting regents and mayors.

Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Mahfud MD said that TNI and police personnel could be appointed as acting regional chiefs if they were seconded to other institutions in the State.

But military expert Anton Aliabbas of the Center for Intermestic and Diplomatic Engagement pointed out that appointing active members of the TNI as interim regional leaders would cast a negative light on the military institution as it would reverse years of reform.

“This is because one of the main criticisms of the TNI reform is the phenomenon of the rise of active officers in civilian positions in the era of the New Order.

Moreover, such an appointment may make the TNI more vulnerable to politicization,” Anton said. – Jakarta Post/ANN

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