In 1998, Indonesian activists spearheaded a civilian effort to loosen the ties that had bound Indonesian politics and life to the country’s armed forces during the three-decade dictatorship of President Suharto. After Suharto resigned that year, Indonesia’s military began internal reforms for removing itself from politics, but a small group of civilians with knowledge of defense policy believed more had to be done. They called for legislation that would redefine the function of the military in Indonesian society and sever it from its business and political interests. Indonesia’s legislative process was opaque, however, and military officers were not accustomed to communicating with civilians about defense policy. ProPatria, a local nongovernmental organization, organized a network of civil society organizations and academics that drafted its own reform agenda and gathered support from military officers, government officials, political parties, and members of parliament. ProPatria members found ways to participate in a legislative process traditionally resistant to civilian influence, and its members won inclusion of some of their proposals into two military reform laws enacted in 2002 and 2004.
Tristan Dreisbach drafted this case based on interviews conducted in Jakarta, Indonesia during March and April 2015. Case published August 2015. A companion case study, Back to the Barracks, examines military reforms in Indonesia led by military officers from 1998 to 2000.