Mon, 07 Feb 2000

Gus Dur's gripe with Wiranto, not military

Tension built in the past week between President Abdurrahman Wahid and Coordinating Minister for Political Affairs and Security Gen. Wiranto, the former Indonesian Military (TNI) commander. The following is an excerpt from an interview by The Jakarta Post with lecturer in politics Arbi Sanit.

Question: How do you see the current state of relations between Gus Dur (Abdurrahman) and the military?

Answer: There has been tension but don't say it's between Gus Dur and TNI, it's not TNI as an institution, it's only Wiranto's group, which reportedly only comprises the chief of the Army Strategic Reserves Command and four provincial military commanders who I don't know.

The others like the Army chief of staff, the Air Force chief of staff and the rest have no problem, at least they express that, as an institution, TNI does not support a coup d'etat.

If they did, of course they would have issued either explicit or veiled statements.

Why would most of the military support Gus Dur?

Because it is the president's authority to dismiss a minister. Apart from that, many have also been disappointed with Wiranto; his rise stepped over many officers while he was only a former adjutant (of president Soeharto).

What is the implication of this situation for future civil- military relations? TNI has pledged to gradually phase out its participation in public affairs.

This (phasing out) is now being accelerated by Gus Dur. He's giving important positions to the Navy and Air Force and those who are more professional, and he has been getting Wiranto's people out of the picture.

Are those who support Gus Dur doing so because they see a chance for more professionalism in the military?

What is more important is that they don't want to be seen as going against the President's orders, and that would make the military's name even worse.

The Indonesian Military is now fragmented, it is cornered and it is no longer an expert in playing strategies.

The current situation seems to indicate that civilian rule has the upper hand. How long do you think this will last in civilian- military relations?

Now that will greatly depend on you, the media. You people think that now you have press freedom, you can say anything, but I am frequently angered by the fact that many of you don't have a vision of democracy, you don't know what to do with that freedom.

Many people don't understand the situation regarding many issues and they turn to the press. With a lot of bad press about Gus Dur, many members of the public have become angry toward him.

The media claims to be quoting sources. For instance, the demands to dissolve the government-sanctioned Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights Violations (KPP HAM) in East Timor, and the questioning of why only "good" Muslim generals, including Wiranto, are being persecuted.

Such views are from small groups, why are they blown up? So what if the generals are Muslim, they're just generals.

There must be a vision of democracy, and one core of this (vision) is the supremacy of civilians over the military.

Why do you think civilians cannot stick together on this issue?

They (who are unsupportive of Gus Dur's actions on the military) are puny anyway -- the bottom line is the military cannot play politics.

What is the implication of the present situation on Gus Dur's Cabinet?

With this tension he has the opportunity to revise his Cabinet. He could go as far as suggesting that all ministers step down and he form a new one, and make sure it no longer includes rotten people.

Initially (in the Cabinet formation) he was being accommodative toward Wiranto, but that was assuming Wiranto was quite strong. Then he experimented with de-Wirantosasi, getting Wiranto's people out, and he succeeded, and became bold enough in the case of KPP HAM.

But Gus Dur should not play "politics in exile" (by making statements during his ongoing overseas journey). He should get together with (Vice President) Megawati Soekarnoputri, (Speaker of the House) Akbar Tandjung, and prepare a strategy.

We can see that every time he makes a statement about some issue he is experimenting, trying out reactions ...

What do you suggest Gus Dur should do?

He should assure a firm division of power within his administration. What he is doing is now effective only for enlarging his power through (seeking support of) foreign governments. What should be done is to use that power with a better, measurable plan, which would be useful to the people.

This is his problem while his power now is far larger than the previous regime. Power is relative and depends on effective management. Why would you want to increase your power if you don't use it effectively? It's no use. (anr)