Army chief denies rift

INDONESIA’s army commander, General Tyasno Sudarto, has brushed aside suggestions of splits in the armed forces (TNI) following a spat between two senior officers over the ongoing human rights probe.

Despite disquiet from several quarters in Jakarta over a recent heated exchange between the Army Srategic Reserve Command (Kostrad) chief Djadja Suparman and South Sulawesti military commander Agus Wirahadikusumah, the army chief downplayed the incident.

“There is no friction in the armed forces,” The Jakarta Post yesterday quoted him as saying. “Differences of opinion between individuals in the TNI are normal for us.”

But he stopped short of suggesting that they were allowed to “challenge any official statement”.

Lieutenant-General Djadja had reportedly said last week that continuing attacks against the TNI for human-rights issues had dire consequences as it could incur the wrath of the soldiers.

Major-General Agus retorted a day later, saying that soldiers do not serve their generals but the TNI and the state.”

While Gen Tyasno sought to downplay tensions, others like Lt-General Agum Gumelar warned that the TNI could become polarised.

Lt-Gen Djadja told The Sunday Times yesterday: “I just had a simple difference of opinion with a colleague. What’s the big deal?”

Military analysts think otherwise and point to a long-standing rivalry, noting that this was not the first time both had traded barbs in public.

During the demonstrations in November last year, Maj-Gen Agus had expressed reservations at the way soldiers in the capital – then under Lt-Gen Djadja’s command – dealt with the students.

Observers said the larger significance of this confrontation lies in the changing face of military factionalism, which sees fault lines in the TNI increasingly being shaped by the personal interests of some generals.

Ideological divides have become muted as the TNI elite close ranks against the civilian-led government intent probing the military for its past misdeeds in various trouble spots.

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