Whither, Wiranto?

The TNI chief will step down from the military soon to take up the revamped post of Coordinating Minister for Security and Political Affairs

THE Indonesian armed forces (TNI) will announce a reshuffle this week that will see a major revamp of the top brass.

The likely departure of military chief Gen Wiranto to take up the revamped Coordinating Minister for Security and Political Affairs post will pave the way for new blood to move up to the higher rungs of power.

For the first time in Indonesian military history, a naval admiral is likely to command the TNI’s 400,000 soldiers deployed across the sprawling archipelago.

Insiders said Admiral Widodo, now the deputy military commander, was expected to move up a notch for the coveted position.

The No 2 position could be filled by the Chief of General Staff Sugiyono.

Lieutenant-General Agus Widjoyo, the head of TNI’s Staff and Command College, said that eventually, TNI’s top post and deputyship would be rotated among the three services – navy, air force and army. The one-time powerful army will no longer be primus inter pares, in theory at least.

Jaded by its humiliating defeat in East Timor and its heavy-handed approach to quelling strife at home over the last year, the army is very much in the cold as it confronts the winds of reform blowing through Indonesia.

But despite reservations from the more conservative generals, the army appears to be taking things in its stride, even more so with its leading reformer, Lt-Gen Bambang Yudhoyono, being the frontrunner to replace Gen Subagyo Hadisiswoyo for the army chief’s post.

The 51-year-old US-trained general, who was born in central Java, is well-known at home and abroad for his strong intellectual bent.

Unlike many of his peers, who rose up the ranks on the coat tails of Mr Suharto, Lt-Gen Bambang has earned widespread respect among civilians and senior officers for “earning his spurs the hard and fair way”.

He told The Straits Times in an interview last month that “the TNI will change to keep up with the new Indonesia”.

Sources said that another officer that could move up to fill any of the key positions in the military, including army chief, was Lt-Gen Tyasno Sudarto, who now heads the military intelligence agency.

Strong pressures to reform the military could also see the appointment of a civilian to head the Defence Ministry, another first for the military.

Professor Juwono Sudarsono, who served during the Suharto and Habibie administrations, was said to be favoured by several officers, given his links with the TNI.

Another candidate for the post is Lt-Gen Agum Gumelar, governor of the National Defence Institute, who was sidelined for years given his close links with then-opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri, now the Vice-President.

A military source said: “Most of the officers who are moving up represent a clean break from the past, untainted by the ‘sins’ of the New Order.

“What we are seeing today was unthinkable during the Suharto era. This is our first real attempt to withdraw from politics and concentrate on building up a professional force.”

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