Golkar chief backs army’s role in politics

INDONESIA IN TRANSITION

The new head of Indonesia’s largest political party says the military has an indispensable part to play in politics.

NEWLY-ELECTED Golkar chairman Akbar Tandjung, brushing aside suggestions that the powerful armed forces (Abri) should return to the barracks, said the military was indispensable in Indonesian politics.

“You cannot talk about politics in this country without any connections with the military which is a political force in its own right,” he told The Straits Times in a recent interview.

“Abri is very important not just for Golkar but also for the other parties in Indonesia. It is a strategic link.”

He said that while he aimed to make the largest political party in the country independent of the bureaucracy and military, he recognised that there could not be a complete severance of ties.

He said the appointment of senior Abri officer Major-General Tuswandi to the secretary-general’s post in Golkar earlier this month was done at his request and not “forced on him by military chief Wiranto”.

“Abri is disciplined and has very competent people working for the organisation,” he said.

“I myself wanted a secretary-general of Golkar to have a military background.”

Speculation has been rife that he struck a deal with Gen Wiranto and accepted a military man for the post in return for military support for his candidacy during the recent Golkar congress.

But he denied the existence of any such deal and in fact suggested he was thinking of offering other important posts to Abri officers.

Mr Akbar, who is also State Secretary, said that he had made a request for an Abri officer to be his deputy to assist him in day-to-day running of the office.

He stressed that while the “strategic link” with the military would prevail, Golkar would not want to be subordinate to its interests any longer.

He said: “I want Golkar to be independent. I want it to stand on its own feet.”

While formal links with both Abri and the bureaucracy would be abolished, he said there was no reason why Golkar could not tap the support of the two organisations, especially the 44-million-strong bureaucracy, for votes in next year’s general election.

“They have supported us before and there is no reason why they won’t do so in the future,” he said.

He added that Golkar, which has a national infrastructure larger than any other political party in Indonesia, could get at least 50 per cent of the votes.

His priority now as Golkar chief was to unite the party.

He has shown a willingness to close ranks by bringing into the political fold several people from the losing side of the Golkar congress.

Mr Tandjung admitted his failure to get support from 10 provinces, which voted in favour of retired general Edi Sudradjat for the Golkar chairmanship, was “significant”.

He lost 30 per cent of the votes from 300 districts. Many of them were from Java, the nation’s most-densely-populated island.

He said: “The important thing is I got the majority vote. That is democracy.”

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