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Paper Generals Fails to Recognize the Role of Military

in Indonesia

Our million-dollar and paper general ministers need to
know more about the history and role of military in
Indonesia. Ministers speaking on the naming issue of an
Indonesian navy ship have exposed themselves their
ignorance in history and military as a key institution in
some countries.

In our ASEAN region, the role of military in Thailand,
Myanmar, Vietnam and of course, Indonesia and the
Philippines is or was an important pillar in maintaining
social orders and stability (no matter we like it or not,
whether they are right or wrong).

In the Muslin world, we also see the traditional role of
military in nation-state building of Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt,
Iraq and even the troubled Syria.

The role of military is a unique feature of institution in
some countries, including Indonesia. This is especially true
when the civil institutions are weak, fail to deliver and build
up the nation. The military in this case is the only
institution due to its discipline can hold the country
together. Just a little hint, more than 100 Indonesian
disciplined military personnel as a bloc are absent from
the Singapore Airshow.

This is why we always hear that there may be a military
coup in Thailand due to the recent political crisis. The
military in Turkey thinks they have a duty to remind the
civilian administration their role in nation building. So do
the military in Pakistan and Egypt.

The military as an institution has to keep their promises
and position themselves as a protector of the nation. Even
though they may make mistakes in the past, for example
military coups, they still maintain their position and
continue their role that they think is right. These promises
include honouring the dead soldiers as shown in the case of
Japan (further discussion later) have become a tradition.

So when Sukarno as a military leader ordered the two
marines to plant the bombs at MacDonald House, even his
opponent Suharto cannot deny the contributions of the
two marines to the Indonesian military. So, despite
differences, from Sukarno to Suharto, the two camps in the
Indonesian military still have to agree with the sacrifice of
the two marines. Leadership changed hands but the
military continues as one institution and honour its

So when the marines become heroes, the role of military as
one voice has to recognise this fact. And they had
demanded Singapore to do some things:
[Singapore had considered this difficult chapter in the
bilateral relationship closed in May 1973 when then-Prime
Minister Lee Kuan Yew visited and scattered flowers on
the graves of the two marines,] #1

It is not clear whether scattered flowers are a way to
recognise the two marines as heroes or just a good will
gesture. Each side may have different interpretations and
Indonesian military would also have its own reading. This
perhaps has become the tradition interpretation of the
military. Not to forget even current
President Yudhoyono who is linked to the military cannot
break this tradition.

When Lee Kuan Yew agreed to scatter flowers, he too has
his interpretation. Why this understanding was not
transferred to the paper generals who supposed to have a
better military understanding and reading?

How about Japanese occupation

The MacDonald House bombing happened when the PAP
was in power. How about the killings during Japanese
Occupation? The PAP seems to have different memories.

Singapore remains silent whenever Japanese leaders pay
their respects at Shinto shrine. Prime Minister Abe told
reporters in late 2013:
["I prayed to pay respect for the war dead who sacrificed
their precious lives and hoped that they rest in peace," ]#2
We are concern and dismay on the naming of the
Indonesian war ship. And we dont have any feeling about
the killing during the Japanese occupation. If you are part
of Indonesian military, what will be your reading?

Singapores position at the two killings (MacDonald House
and World War II) is contradicting. If we oppose the
naming of the Indonesian war ship, we should also oppose
the visit of shrine visits by Japanese leaders. Is this because
Japan is a bigger economy than that of Indonesia? Is this
because the British as colony master has a duty to answer
to the World War II dead in Singapore and not the PAP? I
would like to leave this to your imagination and judgement!

Quality of our ministers

5 Singapore million-dollar and paper-general ministers have
commented on the war ship naming. Now comparing their
comments with their Indonesian counterparts, I dont see
their arguments or debates better than their counterparts.

They are of course very happy to see the commentary of
Jakarta Post that seems to be on their side and calling the
naming an insensitive act. Is our silent on killings during
Japanese occupation sensitive or insensitive? Maybe we
always like to choose the easier route and choose the area
of our responsibility?

If the PAP thinks the social media and Internet are
irresponsible, what about their own ministers on the
naming issue? They thought they could score political
points by defending Singaporean interests. Unfortunately,
their arguments are so weak and unintelligent (I hope
readers do have time to read the comments on both sides).

We have to acknowledge that Indonesia is a big country
with big population. A certain percentage of their
population is smarter than us and receives much less than a
million dollar salary. We have to be humble and accept the
fact of history, the role of military of other countries. Our
ignorance of historical fact will make us weak in defending
Singaporean interest. A better understanding and
appreciation of history will strengthen our positions and

So, do Singapore ministers need an urgent course on
history, on constitutions, on press freedom? Perhaps the
most urgent one is on political competition as they will face
more demanding voters and stronger
opponents. Understanding the past history of political
competitions and the monopoly role of the PAP may help
them a bit. But will they take up the history lesson when
they already have their millions?