Thu, 06 Jan 2000

President need not fear TNI coup or Wiranto: Agus

MAKASSAR, South Sulawesi (JP): Wirabuana Military Commander Maj. Gen. Agus Wirahadikusuma insisted that President Abdurrahman Wahid should not fear deteriorating relations with Gen. Wiranto as the latter no longer held paramount influence within the Indonesian Military (TNI).

When asked by journalists to comment on rumors of an impending Cabinet reshuffle and that the former TNI chief could lose his post as coordinating minister for political affairs and security, Agus said that such a move was the prerogative of the President who should consider what he believes to be best without fearing any repercussions from the TNI.

Agus charged that Wiranto's current post was superfluous to the military structure.

Without hesitation he even discounted Wiranto's influence within the military.

"The most influential person in the TNI now is no longer Wiranto but the TNI commander (Adm. Widodo AS)," he asserted here on Wednesday.

Agus, who has built a reputation as an outspoken, progressive thinker, has said that Abdurrahman should not be reluctant in his decision out of fear of further cooling his relations with Wiranto.

He asserted that while Wiranto may be a former TNI chief, the President should distinguish between the two, stressing that the current coordinating ministerial post is not part of the TNI structure.

"The relationship between the President and TNI is very good," he stressed.

Rumors have been rife that a Cabinet reshuffle may occur this week with Wiranto among those likely to be axed.

Observers have pointed out that since Wiranto still has not retired from the military, as required by law when assuming a Cabinet post, such a reshuffle may pit the top government executive against the TNI.

Agus, however, merely called on the President not to be afraid.

He brushed off fears of a possible coup d'etat by the military.

"What kind of coup? That kind of thing is no longer fashionable. And besides, can we (TNI) really fight against the people?

"We can't even take care of Ambon. How can we launch a coup?" he remarked.

Agus has been in the media spotlight in recent months for controversial statements which have often gone contrary to the regular TNI line.

On Wednesday he also welcomed the emergence of people like Widodo, who is from a Navy background, as TNI chief.

He said the break in the Army's domination in the top military echelons would only bring progress.


Meanwhile in Jakarta, People's Consultative Assembly Speaker Amien Rais said that while some changes to the Cabinet may be needed, the overall composition and performance of the Cabinet was not bad.

"Only one or two ministers have shown a bad performance," Amien, who is also the chairman of the National Mandate Party, said on Wednesday evening.

Nevertheless he was not sure if a reshuffle would result in better ministers being introduced in the Cabinet, while expressing fear that the government was focusing too much on handling reshuffle issues while neglecting the state issues at hand.

Minister of Human Rights Affairs Hasballah M. Saad lamented the widespread talk of a Cabinet reshuffle, saying it could adversely affect the performance of the government.

"How can ministers work smoothly if they're worried about being replaced?" Hasballah remarked on Wednesday.

He added that it was also unfair to judge the performance of ministers as they had only been in office for about two months.(27/jun)