TNI chief calls for political compromise
It is a bid to prevent a clash between the President and legislators, and the first time the military is presenting a united front since the crisis broke.
Indonesia’s military chief Admiral Widodo Adisucipto, seeking to defuse tensions that could trigger sporadic violence across the archipelago, called on the country’s squabbling political elite to strike a compromise.
It was the first time since the crisis broke that the military has come out so publicly to project a united front in a bid to prevent a collision between President Abdurrahman Wahid and feisty legislators.
Analysts saw the statement by Admiral Widodo as a move by the military to also maintain the moral high ground of neutrality.
In his statement, read out to reporters by chief of territorial affairs Agus Widjoyo, the TNI commander said:
“The ranks of TNI call on all the political elite, and those who are competent, to be willing to show high statesmanship and make sacrifices to reach a compromise; a political solution that is most feasible.”
A solution should have as its “main orientation”, the interests of the people, the nation and the state, he added. The admiral gave little indication of what a compromise entailed.
However, senior military sources have long talked vaguely about a power-sharing arrangement among all the major political groups.
This, of course, included the generals who appeared to be beginning to gradually exercise a growing political influence in Indonesia.
Lt-Gen Agus disclosed that Adm Widodo had checked with the President about rumours in the capital over the weekend that he was making moves to replace the army chief and disband Parliament.
But despite Mr Abdurrahman’s spokesman having said previously that there were no such plans, there was no indication yesterday if the military chief got a satisfactory response.
All Lt-Gen Agus would say was that the “various reports relating to TNI have been clarified and confirmed”.
Army chief Endriartono Sutarto had told reporters previously that Mr Abdurrahman planned to impose a state of emergency – something the general did not support.
Senior military sources told The Straits Times that Mr Abdurrahman was still contemplating sacking Gen Endriartono for not supporting his initiative.
They said he was thinking of replacing the general with one of two possible candidates: loyalist Agus Wirahadikusumah and Lieutenant-General Johni Lumintang.
But the TNI has been quick to signal its objection to any such move.
Last Saturday, as more than 100 generals met to voice their objection to his reported plans, 20 armoured personnel carriers were stationed not too far from the palace.
These were joined a day later by thousands of soldiers from the Army Strategic Reserve Command.
Said a three-star army general: “We wanted to signal to Gus Dur that if he made any attempts to violate the Constitution, we will take sides with the people to oust him.”
The TNI’s calculated brinkmanship has won support from several quarters in the country.
Political observers said its statement for a compromise yesterday suggested that the military appeared to want to ride on this wave of new found support for its role after having been forced to the political sidelines following the fall of former President Suharto.
But there were also real security considerations.
Gen Endriartono reportedly told the top military brass over the weekend that intelligence reports showed that palace elements were plotting to use military loyalists to stir up problems in Jakarta, and East and Central Java, to justify a decree for a state of emergency.