Abri ‘won’t let old forces rule again’
INDONESIA IN TRANSITION
In a clear reference to ousted President Suharto, a military official says a comeback by these forces would hurt country’s development.
THE Indonesian military has brushed aside suggestions that “old political forces” in the country will return, vowing that the powerful military will prevent them from doing so.
Lieutenant-General Bambang Yudhoyono, the socio-political chief of the armed forces (Abri), told reporters that a comeback by these forces would set back Indonesia’s development.
“The nation has two great challenges which it must rise to meet – it must settle the economic crisis and proceed with reform,” news reports yesterday quoted him as saying.
“The political forces best equipped to carry out this agenda are those who have played an active part in the reform movement. It is illogical, unrealistic and antagonistic if old political forces want to run the state’s affairs.”
He added: “Abri, together with all elements in society, will prevent them from making a return.”
Lt-Gen Yudhoyono did not name the old forces, but the reference was clearly to former President Suharto, who resigned last month following a wave of unrest and demonstrations.
Last week, Abri chief General Wiranto downplayed reformist suggestions that Mr Suharto’s influence was still pervasive after 32 years in power.
The Jakarta Post said that there were rumours that the former head had been campaigning quietly to wrest back power through his loyalists in the ruling Golkar party of which he is still chief patron.
Golkar plans to hold a congress next month, three months ahead of schedule, to elect a new chairman.
The party’s central executive board has split into two camps in the run-up to this congress.
One of the camps includes two of Mr Suharto’s children – Mrs Siti Hardijanti Rukmana and Mr Bambang Trihatmodjo.
Mr Suharto’s half-brother, Mr Probosutedjo, said last week that the former President would not make a return as he no longer had the trust and support of Indonesians.
He added that the 475,000-strong military would also not support him.
Abri has so far only declared publicly that it would protect Mr Suharto and his family.
Analysts are sceptical that the current leadership would go beyond that, given the likely political backlash it could generate.
Lt-Gen Yudhoyono dismissed rumours that the military was involved in setting up the mechanisms and agenda for the Golkar congress.
“Abri will let Golkar leaders settle their differences,” he said. “Abri wants Golkar to be independent and to fight its own political battles in the future.”
He disclosed that the military accepted President B. J. Habibie’s proposal to hold a general election in May next year, although Abri had hoped for an earlier date.
Abri submitted its ideas for political reform to Dr Habibie last week. Military sources said that it included a brief on Abri’s future role.
A three-star general told The Sunday Times that Abri would continue to play a political role in Indonesia and ensure that the process of transition would be smooth.
“Only the military can guarantee the stability of this nation,” he said, adding that it would not hinder moves for reforms provided they were done “in a gradual and constitutional manner”.