Yudhoyono cements his hold on power

President’s men in charge of military, political parties and intelligence units

FIVE months into office, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is consolidating his grip on Indonesia. The former general is quietly removing opposition in the military, intelligence agencies and political parties as he charts a smooth path for his five-year-term presidency.

After bringing Golkar – the biggest block in parliament – to his side last December, his aides are now working to secure control of other major political parties. They are exploiting factional strife to wrest the chairmanship of at least three of these parties – the United Development Party (PPP), the Nation Awakening Party (PKB) and the National Mandate Party (PAN).

Leaders of each of these parties are being challenged by three Cabinet ministers.

Coordinating Minister for Welfare Alwi Shihab is vying to take control of PKB as he fends of a challenge from its founder Abdurrahman Wahid.

Transportation Minister Hatta Rajasa is engaged in battle with his rivals, who are allied to former presidential contender Amien Rais, to take control of PAN.

In PPP, State Minister for Small and Medium Enterprises Surya Dharma Ali is working behind the scenes to topple the incumbent, former vice-president Hamzah Haz.

Political observer Arbi Sanit of the University of Indonesia noted: ‘This is Javanese wayang or shadow play at its best. The President is using his ministers to infiltrate several of the parties so that they will support his regime.’

Dr Yudhoyono’s own Democrat Party is in disarray. But he appears to be ignoring it because of its small presence in parliament – it has 54 seats in the 550-member legislature.

His aim now is to win over the major parties, which even some of his critics concede is likely.

Similar moves are taking place in the Indonesian armed forces (TNI), where Dr Yudhoyono has pushed through three senior officers to key appointments while weeding out his opponents.

Long-time ally Djoko Santoso is now the army chief and sources say he is being groomed to take over from General Endriartono Sutarto as TNI commander next year.

Two other allies were moved up the ranks – Major-General Endang Koeswara as deputy army chief and Maj-Gen Agustadi in the critical post of Jakarta commander.

Gen Ryamizard Ryacudu, the ex-army chief, was initially tipped for the top job in the military but was perceived to be too close to former president Megawati Sukarnoputri and especially her husband Taufik Kiemas.

Seen as a political liability by the palace, the four-star general has been moved to the military headquarters without an official post. Some analysts believe he will remain there until he retires next year.

In the state intelligence agency BIN, retired two-star general Syamsir Siregar is ‘spring cleaning’ an organisation that presidential aides said served Ms Megawati’s political interests.

Mr Syamsir, who was appointed to head BIN earlier this year, recently removed several senior officers, charging some of them with involvement in a fraud case.

But the underlying motivation appears to be politics, with most of those removed linked to former intelligence chief A. M. Hendropriyono.

Dr Yudhoyono’s aides charge that Mr Hendropriyono tried to use BIN to influence the outcome of last year’s presidential elections by closely affiliating itself with Ms Megawati’s Indonesian Democratic Party – Struggle.

There is a purge going on in BIN to ‘make it more professional’. But clearly, the outfit still serves palace interests.

Insiders revealed that the organisation was being used to track the activities of Dr Yudhoyono’s foes like Ms Megawati, former Golkar chairman Akbar Tandjung and Mr Wiranto, who contested the presidential polls.

A senior Golkar legislator told The Straits Times: ‘When he was sworn into power, many legislators thought he would be a weak President.

‘He might have secured a majority vote in the election but did not have much support in parliament.

‘Today, the situation is very different. Major parties are falling under his influence. He has also won over the military. He is getting stronger.’

Lining up alliances

Coordinating Minister for Welfare Alwi Shihab is vying with Nation Awakening Party founder Abdurrahman Wahid for party leadership.

Transportation Minister Hatta Rajasa is engaged in a battle in the National Mandate Party with rivals allied to former presidential contender Amien Rais.

State Minister for Small and Medium Enterprises Surya Dharma Ali is working to topple United Development Party leader Hamzah Haz.

Long-time ally Djoko Santoso has been promoted to army chief and is tipped to take over from General Endriartono Sutarto as TNI commander.

Retired general Syamsir Siregar has removed several officers in the state intelligence agency BIN.

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