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The BBC's Richard Galpin
"Almost 150 senior officers gathered in the capital to discuss the military role in the democratic era"
 real 28k

Thursday, 20 April, 2000, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
Indonesia military 'out of politics'
Indonesian soldiers
Military had dual function under President Suharto
Indonesia's armed forces chief, Admiral Widodo Adisutjipto, has sought to reassure the nation that the military does not want to return to politics.

In the strongest commitment yet to a change in the role of the military, the admiral said: "We are out of politics and we will concentrate on the defence of the nation."

Admiral Widodo's comments are in line with President Abdurrahman Wahid's plan of establishing civilian dominance over the armed forces.

The president has moved to scale down the power of the military since he took office last October.


Admiral Widodo
Admiral Widodo says the top command of the military agreed on the move
Admiral Widodo said the armed forces top commanders have agreed unanimously on the move.

He stressed that members of the armed forces must make the choice of whether to take part in politics, and shed their links with the military, or to remain in the forces but out of politics.

Dual function

Under the 32-year rule of former President Suharto the military adopted a "dual function" which allowed them to meddle in the affairs of the civilian state while also maintaining national security.

A block of seats was reserved for the military in parliament and officers were given key positions in the cabinet, the bureaucracy and state companies.

Since Suharto's resignation amid protests and riots in 1998, the military command has promised to become more democratic.

The number of seats reserved in parliament was reduced from 100 to 38 and Admiral Widodo said that they would no longer maintain day-to-day law and order in the country, leaving that job to the police.

Professional force

He said the armed forces would aim to become a professional fighting force dedicated to the defence of the nation.

His comments come a day after the opening of a landmark human rights trial in Aceh.

Twenty-four low-ranking soldiers and a civilian are charged with massacring 57 unarmed villagers last July.

The trial is seen as a symbolic effort by Wahid's reformist government to placate Aceh's 4.1 million people after decades of brutal treatment by the military.

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See also:

19 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Aceh massacre trial underway
09 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
Indonesian forces clash with Aceh rebels
03 Feb 99 | SPECIAL REPORT
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