Prabowo will head military college

INDONESIA IN TRANSITION

Abri chief Wiranto puts to rest speculation that Lt-Gen Prabowo was reluctant to accept his new post.

INDONESIA’S military chief Wiranto confirmed yesterday that Lt-General Prabowo Subianto was ready to accept a new training post, squashing earlier rumours that the future of the former head of the elite Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad) was uncertain.

“He reported to me officially on Sunday and indicated his willingness, as a good soldier, to assume his new appointment,” he told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.

Gen Wiranto, who is also Defence Minister, said he was aware of rumours being circulated about Lt-Gen Prabowo’s transfer out of the 27,000-strong Kostrad to head the Staff and Command College (Sesko Abri) in Bandung.

“People are just spreading rumours to cause problems,” he said.

Indeed, there had been widespread speculation about the fate of the three-star general, who is also the son-in-law of former President Suharto and, at one time, one of the fastest rising stars in the armed forces (Abri).

Military sources told The Straits Times that Lt-Gen Prabowo, 47, had met Gen Wiranto, 50, at the Abri headquarters on Sunday to put in a request for an ambassadorship.

“He is very disappointed and angry at being relieved from the Kostrad post which had troops under his control,” the source said.

He added that “it is a loss of face for him to be sent to Bandung”.

The source said Lt-Gen Prabowo also registered his request for an ambassadorship with President B.J. Habibie and Coordinating Minister for Security and Political Affairs Feisal Tanjung to get backing for his request.

“His fate is still in the balance,” the source said.

“Even if they agree, we will have to find a slot for an ambassadorial posting. It will take time.”

The armed forces chief told reporters on Saturday that Lt-Gen Prabowo’s move to Bandung was a “routine tour of duty”.

“Actually the replacement of Prabowo had long been planned,” he said.

“He has never served in the education area and has always been in a fighting or operational unit.”

Military sources said that more changes were expected in the next few weeks in the top brass to forge a much more unified Abri, which analysts believe was split between Gen Wiranto and Lt-Gen Prabowo.

One outcome of this was yesterday’s handing over of the command of the “red beret” Special Forces (Kopassus) from Maj-General Muchdi Purwoprajono – a Prabowo ally – to Maj- General Syahrir of the Udayana command, which oversees the islands from Bali to East Timor.

Another senior officer who could be affected in an impending reshuffle is Jakarta garrison commander Maj-General Syafrie Syamsuddin, who graduated with Lt-Gen Prabowo from the military academy in 1974.

A source, a two-star general, said that changes could also see Gen Wiranto’s allies – either Lt-General Bambang Yudhoyono, Abri’s socio-political chief, or Lt-General Agum Gumelar, the National Defence Institute Governor – move up, perhaps as future army chiefs.

RESHUFFLE: More names

* JAKARTA garrison commander Maj-Gen Syafrie Syamsuddin, who graduated with Lt-Gen Prabowo from the military academy in 1974, is expected to be affected in a coming reshuffle.
* Gen Wiranto’s allies – Lt-Gen Bambang Yudhoyono, Abri’s socio-political chief, or Lt-Gen Agum Gumelar, National Defence Institute Governor – could also move up.

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