Tue, 15 Jan 2002

Army chief cool about Aceh military revival

Tiarma Siboro, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

New controversy has shrouded the government's plan to reinstate the military command in restive Aceh, after Army Chief of Staff Gen. Endriartono Sutarto admitted he had no knowledge of the issue.

"I don't understand (about the plan). I don't even know whether the reestablishment of the military command in Aceh is required. The Indonesian Military (TNI) headquarters itself has yet to ask us (the Army headquarters) to talk about it," Endriartono told reporters at the Army headquarters.

Pending the formal request from the TNI, the Army will not take any measures related to the plan.

As the Army chief, Endriartono oversees all regional military commands in the country.

The central government said its intention to revive the Iskandar Muda military command in Aceh was aimed at empowering the Indonesian Military in attempts to handle the feisty separatist movement in the province.

The plan surfaced following the imposition of the Law of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam on Jan. 1, which gives more power to the local government.

Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono earlier said that the structure for the military command already existed and the current operational command post would serve as the new military command.

Susilo said that there were enough military troops to fill the jobs when the Aceh military command officially begins its service. He also said while preparations get underway, the government was calculating the budget for the plan.

Military sources have disclosed that the Aceh military command will be inaugurated on Feb. 10.

But Endriartono did not take the government's optimism about the prospect of the new military command for granted.

"The Army has yet to make any preparatory measures, including choosing the recruitment system of soldiers to be placed in Aceh."

"It's a political decision at the TNI headquarters level. Should the TNI chief order me to take necessary steps to help the plan to materialize, I'll do it."

The Army oversaw 17 military commands across the nation until the then Armed Forces chief Gen. L.B. Moerdani cut the number to 10 in 1986.

Following the prolonged sectarian conflict in Maluku which first erupted in 1998, the government, under former president B.J. Habibie, reestablished the Pattimura Military command overseeing Maluku in 1999. The islands previously came under supervision of the Trikora Military command stationed in the Papua capital of Jayapura.

At that time, former Armed Forces chief Gen. (ret) Wiranto also proposed the reestablishment of the military command in Aceh.

(Military Command -- Supervised areas): Bukit Barisan -- Aceh, Riau, and West Sumatra; Sriwilaya -- South Sumatra, Bengkulu, Lampung, Jambi, Bangka Belitung; Tanjung Pura -- Kalimantan; Wirabuana -- Sulawesi; Siliwangi -- West Java and Banten; Diponegoro -- Central Java and Yogyakarta; Brawijaya -- East Java; Trikora -- Papua; Pattimura -- Maluku and North Maluku; Udayana -- Bali and Nusa Tenggara; Jaya -- Greater Jakarta.