Edmund McWilliams, a retired US Foreign Service Officer, writes:

Gary Hogan's March 6 article, A promising New Generation of TNI leaders, presents a weak case for its essential contention that new leaders of the Indonesian military (TNI) are 'more sophisticated, worldly and conscious of the wider implications of military actions for Indonesia's image and reputation.' 

The central point that Hogan misses is that, notwithstanding the new blood purportedly surging into the upper ranks of the TNI, that organisation remains unaccountable before Indonesian courts for the sometimes barbarous performance of its officers and enlisted men. When rare public scrutiny compels a degree of accountability, those convicted of human rights abuse invariably are given light punishments.

Moreover, the TNI as an institution continues to operate outside of civilian control.

Despite parliamentary calls for fundamental reforms extending back over a decade, the TNI continues to rely heavily on sources of revenue not under the control of the civilian budgetary process. TNI leaders depend on a significant flow of funds from legal and illegal businesses, extortion of domestic and foreign corporations and other revenues not controlled by any civilian budgetary process.

Mr Hogan's contention that some of the rising stars of the 'new' TNI constellation are more 'worldly' by virtue of their training in the US and other foreign countries is also essentially bogus. Some of the TNI's most infamous leaders, including Lt General Prabowo, benefited from extensive foreign training. This foreign contact failed to render the officers involved any more sensitive to human rights concerns or to the essential democratic order of a military subordinate to civilian control.

Absent serious reform of the TNI, Indonesian democracy will remain hostage to a rogue military and the whims of the elite officer ranks which control it.