Abri to get new chief before presidential election

INDONESIA looks set to have a new armed forces (Abri) commander – thought to be current army chief, General Wiranto – ahead of the presidential election next month.

Abri spokesman Brigadier-General Wahab Mokodongan said yesterday that an announcement was imminent, and that incumbent chief Gen Feisal Tanjung would meet President Suharto tomorrow to discuss the matter.

He will brief the President on the results of a three-day annual meeting of military commanders, where support for a presidential and vice-presidential candidate are also expected to be discussed.

“It is up to the President to decide the date and the person replacing him, but the commander-in-chief will definitely be replaced,” Brig-Gen Wahab told reporters.

However, he declined to name Gen Feisal’s successor.

But senior Abri officers told The Straits Times that Gen Wiranto would most likely replace the 58-year-old Gen Feisal, whose term in office was extended by the President when he reached the retirement age of 55 three years ago.

A handing-over ceremony is also likely to take place next Monday.

Gen Wiranto, a 50-year-old Yogyakarta-born Javanese Muslim, is seen by analysts as representing a younger generation of better-educated, often foreign-trained officers, who are pushing for greater professionalism in the military.

His rise up the military ranks has been fast, particularly after serving as the President’s adjutant between 1989 and 1993.

He has headed the Jakarta Military Command and strategic reserve command (Kostrad), and received his fourth star in March last year, when he was appointed army chief.

Military insiders say Gen Wiranto, known for his low profile and carefully cultivated neutrality, is a confidant of Mr Suharto.

Sources described his imminent appointment as being part of the President’s plan to secure his political flanks in the run-up to the election, by “anointing” loyalists in key positions.

More high-level changes are expected after the presidential election, including for Maj-Gen Prabowo Subianto, Mr Suharto’s son-in-law. He could become Abri chief-of-general staff or Kostrad commander.

Speculation is also rife that Gen Feisal could be given the post of Coordinating Minister for Security and Political Affairs, or Defence Minister, in a new Cabinet appointed after the election.

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