Indonesia's jobs for generals plan alarms rights groups

In this May 11, 2018, photo, Indonesia Armed Forces Chief Air Marshall Hadi Tjahjanto, second left, puts on an epaulet on the shoulders of a military general during their inauguration to their new position in Sorong, Papua province, Indonesia. The Indonesian government is planning to post some of the dozens of underemployed generals into high-ranking civilian roles, alarming rights groups who see it as a threat to the country's young democracy. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)
In this Oct. 5, 2017, photo, officers lead a company of soldiers during a parade commemorating the anniversary of Indonesian Military in Cilegon, Banten, Indonesia. The Indonesian government is planning to post some of the dozens of underemployed generals into high-ranking civilian roles, alarming rights groups who see it as a threat to the country's young democracy. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

JAKARTA, Indonesia — The Indonesian government is planning to post some of the dozens of underemployed generals into high-ranking civilian roles, alarming rights groups who see it as a threat to the country's young democracy.

Indonesia's military has at least 150 generals without defined positions, partly due to a rise in the retirement age, and President Joko Widodo is planning a regulation to create 60 new posts for them, including in the civilian bureaucracy.

Al Araf, the director of Indonesian rights group Imparsial, said Thursday the plan is inconsistent with the spirit of reforms that followed the end of dictator Suharto's rule in 1998 and returned the military to barracks.

Under Suharto, seats in the legislature were reserved for the military and officers occupied thousands of civilian roles from district chiefs to Cabinet ministers.

"The move has the potential to restore the authoritarian system," Araf said.

Currently, active military officers can only serve in ministries or institutions related to state security and defense under a law governing the military that was enacted in 2004.

Widodo discussed a restructuring of the armed forces last month with military and police leaders and said creating 60 new posts in government for one, two and three-star generals would allow colonels to advance in the military's ranks.

Military spokesman Maj. Gen. Sisriadi said the restructuring does not aim to restore the "dual function" of the military that it had under Suharto.

"That concept was an old book that has been thrown away," said Sisriadi, who goes by a single name. "It will never exist again."

He said the military is proposing various measures to overcome its generals' bulge, including lengthening the years or service required to reach high rank to 26 years from 24.

The military is working with the Defense Ministry and the Ministry of Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform to create a system that equips soldiers with skills for specialist careers within the military, said Sisriadi.

Military analyst Evan Laksmana at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies said in a commentary that the military has no long-term plan for managing its personnel.

It has too many officer academy graduates and between 2011 and 2017 had an average of 330 surplus colonels a year, he said.

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