The Indonesian National Armed Forces celebrated 70 years on Monday amid concerns about its recent encroachment into civilian affairs. Meanwhile, authorities mulled imposing a midnight curfew on entertainment venues in the capital, and researchers debated the impact of a Giant Sea Wall planned to keep Jakarta from sinking.
In an address marking the 70th anniversary of Indonesia's armed forces (TNI) on Monday, President Jokowi urged a return to the military's roots as a 'people's army' and promoted increased engagement with civilians. He endorsed TNI's vision for a stronger military working closely with the people. For critical observers, Jokowi's rhetoric is ringing alarm bells. A report by the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPC) earlier in the year warned of stagnation in military reform under Jokowi, and a potential return to the entrenched social and political role for the TNI seen under Suharto's New Order.
Among other things, the change has been signaled by an increasing number of Memoranda of Understanding signed by the TNI and private partners, raising questions about accountability as well as civil and political freedoms. The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS) has called the MoU situation a 'time bomb', while human rights monitor Imparsial says it is against state law.
But Jokowi has remained quiet on the issue, having found TNI to be a rare political ally. His supportive speech for the anniversary this week stands in contrast to a much sterner speech given at the 69th anniversary of the police force in July, when he demanded a clean-up of corruption in the force. Another anniversary last week, marking 50 years since the start of the mass killings of 1965, passed without Jokowi mentioning TNI. This is despite the military's alleged role in the atrocities, as found in an investigation by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM). In fact, the President marked the anniversary at a military monument in East Jakarta.
Elsewhere in Jakarta, the so-called 'war on drugs' continues. Members of the Jakarta City Council this week blamed nightclubs for supporting drug trafficking in the capital and demanded enforcement of a midnight curfew or for nightclubs to be banned altogether.
The approved operating hours for nightclubs are currently from 7pm to 2am, though many stay open much later. One nightclub notorious for drug trafficking, and for remaining open at all hours, was Stadium, a nightlife institution that was shut down by the city government last year. But Jakarta Governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama has rejected the Council's plan to shorten hours or shut all clubs as a blanket solution to drug trafficking. The city's Tourism and Culture Agency chief, Purba Hutapea, agreed with the Governor, saying that nightclubs and their operating hours are not the problem and suggesting that a more effective solution would be to combat drugs in cooperation with the National Police and National Narcotics Agency. The proposed bylaw is the latest conservative push to restrict nightlife, after restrictions on the sale of alcohol were set in place earlier this year. A bill for nationwide alcohol prohibition is still under discussion.
A more pressing matter for Jakarta as the rainy season approaches is the task of staying above water. Groundwater extraction, heavy construction and erosion (compounded by extreme weather) are causing some parts of the city to sink at a rate of up to 28cm a year. Other parts of the city are prone to flooding due to poor drainage and pollution of the waterways.
One solution being pursued is the construction of a Giant Sea Wall stretching 32km just north of Jakarta's bay. The wall has also been proposed as a site for urban development, with plans for an airport and residential and industrial areas on the 4000 hectares of space to be created. Researchers from the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry this week raised concerns that the proposed development would spell environmental disaster for Jakarta's already heavily polluted bay, affecting the remaining fish and coral. However, a hydrologist from a Dutch water research institute responded that the environmental risk was worth the effort to preserve the homes and livelihoods of millions of Jakarta's citizens.
Photo by Flickr user EastAsiaPacificBlog.