Gus Dur to sack defiant generals

Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, still bent on imposing emergency rule that needs armed forces (TNI) backing, is likely to sack his army, navy and air force commanders in advance of an impeachment hearing in August.

Mr Chotibul Umam Wiranu, spokesman for the Indonesian leader’s Nation Awakening Party, told The Straits Times yesterday that the reshuffle was planned a month ago, to inject “new blood” into the administration.

“There are no hidden political agendas here,” he said. “Gus Dur has made several changes in Cabinet and so one should expect him to make changes in the TNI too.”

But the hawkish generals appeared cool over the idea, saying that the palace was once again trying to force the military to back its radical plans for emergency rule if legislators went ahead with impeachment.

The military, especially army chief General Endriartono Sutarto, has opposed such a move, much to the chagrin of Mr Abdurrahman who had threatened to sack him several times.

But even if there is a reshuffle of the top brass, military sources doubted whether there would be any takers, especially for the army chief’s post.

President Abdurrahman’s support base in the army especially is marginal.

Political observers said that even if he promoted loyalists, it was unlikely it would get the backing of other generals who continue to oppose any attempt at invoking emergency rule and disbanding Parliament.

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