TNI army chief confirms replacement by deputy

Indonesian army chief Tyasno Sudarto yesterday confirmed widespread speculation that he would soon be replaced by his deputy in a military shake-up.

He said that President Abdurrahman Wahid had told him on Saturday that there would a reshuffle in the army leadership. “I was summoned by the President and told about the change,” he told reporters in Solo, Central Java.

He disclosed that his replacement was Lieutenant-General Endriartono Sutarto, whose name had surfaced this week in the media as the most likely candidate for the second most powerful job in the armed forces (TNI).

General Tyasno, who did not seem to know what his next post would be, said that there were three army generals who could have easily filled the slot of army chief.

He did not mention any names, but sources believe he was referring to chief of general staff Djamari Chaniago, Army Strategic Reserve Command head Ryamizard Ryacudu and the deputy army commander.

Explaining the decision to promote Lt-Gen Endriartono, he said: “It is the wise move. After all, he is the No 2 in the army.” Interestingly, he made no reference to rebel reformer Agus Wirahadikusumah, another general who had been in the running for the post.

Sources said that Gen Tyasno was among 45 generals who signed a document that opposed the appointment of Lt-Gen Agus as army chief or even as TNI commander.

Some of them even threatened to resign.

Indeed, opponents of Lt-Gen Agus, are said to be behind moves to set up an honour council to sanction him and his ally, Major-General Saurip Kadi.

Both, they argue, had violated the military code of ethics in several instances.

Lt-Gen Agus, for example, was accused of making a private trip to the United States last month without the approval of Gen Tyasno.

The three-star general, who is now without a portfolio, said he went to Washington for his daughter’s graduation.

But TNI hawks said that he went there to get American support for his cause against rivals in the army.

Military analysts believe that Lt-Gen Agus, 49, is likely to be sidelined to hold a staff appointment in the Defence Ministry, where he is expected to bide his time.

He said recently that he had “plenty of time” to move up, given that the mandatory retirement age was 55.

It remained unclear yesterday when Gen Tyasno would be replaced.

The palace is expected to make a formal announcement of the reshuffle in the next few days. Changes in the navy leadership are also likely, sources said.

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