File photo Indonesian armed forces take part in a military parade in Surabaya, East Java. (AFP)

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s military has failed to dismantle its “dangerous business empire” as ordered under a 2004 law designed to enhance civilian rule in the budding democracy, a human rights watchdog said Tuesday.

Promises of increased oversight by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a market-friendly ex-general, were “totally inadequate” and left the military unaccountable to government, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report.

“It’s outrageous that despite the parliamentary directive the government has no plan to take over ownership or management of a single business,” HRW researcher and report author Lisa Misol said in a statement.

“Promising to monitor them more closely simply isn’t good enough.”

Despite a 2004 law ordering the military (TNI) to get out of the business sector by the end of 2009, the generals still control 23 foundations and over 1,000 cooperatives including ownership of 55 companies, the report says.

These interests had gross assets worth 350 million dollars in 2007 and turned a profit of 28.5 million dollars, according to official figures cited by the report.

Yudhoyono issued a decree on October 11 promising greater oversight, but HRW said the measures merely entailed a partial restructuring of the business entities and required no divestment.

An inter-ministerial oversight team established on November 11 has no clear authority, lacks independence and is not required to report publicly, HRW said.

“Nor do the new measures address accountability for human rights violations and economic crimes associated with military business activities,” it added, citing examples including the killing of protesters by military personnel.

In 2007 in Pasuruan, East Java, HRW said navy personnel opened fire on villagers who were protesting over expropriations of land by the navy decades earlier, killing four.

The sailors were providing security for a state-owned company that had leased the land from the navy to operate a plantation.

“In other examples, the military has had a prominent role in large timber operations that have displaced communities from their ancestral lands and fuelled rampant illegal logging,” it said.

“Military units providing protection services to companies have earned off-budget cash payments, raising serious corruption concerns… The military also has been implicated in illegal businesses and extortion operations.”

A spokesman for Yudhoyono refused to comment on the HRW report and military press officers were unavailable.

HRW said money-making ventures by the military “contribute to crime and corruption, impede military professionalism and distort the function of the military itself”.

Former defence minister Jowono Sudarsono admitted last year that “rogue elements” of the military could be behind a spate of shootings targeting employees of US miner Freeport McMoRan in eastern Papua province.

Unidentified gunmen ambushed and killed an Australian mine worker and two Indonesians including a policeman in July near Freeport’s massive gold mine, which pays troops for protection.

Sudarsono rejected suggestions of direct military involvement and police have blamed poorly armed Papuan separatists, but the mine has long been linked to alleged human rights abuses by the security forces.

During his tenure as defence minister from the time Yudhoyono took office in 2004 until last year, Sudarsono argued the military should be allowed to keep its smaller business interests to support soldiers’ families.

The task of bringing the Indonesian military fully under civilian control remains incomplete more than a decade after the collapse of general Suharto’s military-backed dictatorship. — AFP