Fri, 17 Mar 2000

President tells military officers to remain loyal

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid issued a blunt warning saying that discontent Indonesian Military (TNI) officers must remain loyal and obey his commands or face the axe.

The president said he could understand the rumblings of some officers unsatisfied with his leadership, but warned that obedience was paramount if they wished to retain their posts.

Speaking to journalists at Bina Graha presidential office on Wednesday, Abdurrahman vowed that he would not rebuke these officers as long as they did not publicly challenge him or organize antigovernment movements.

"Although they are rather discontented, as long as I see they are obeying orders, I allow them to stay in their posts," said the President.

According to the President, all TNI soldiers should realize that it will be better for their own interests to be loyal to the legitimate government.

The President also played down his previous allegation during a Tuesday television talkshow that several of the country's 16 regional military commanders (Pangdam) were trying to assemble antigovernment forces.

In apparent recognition of the controversy he stirred, Abdurrahman seemed to play down his previous statement by saying that only one commander was dissatisfied with the prevailing situation and that this general had not made any antigovernment moves.

"About the Pangdam, he did not mobilize forces. But he did summon several people and made a lengthy statement about me, about disagreeing with my policies. It's his own business," the President remarked.

The President refused to name the general but he made it clear that Jakarta Military chief Maj. Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu and Maluku military chief Brig. Gen. Max Tamaela should not be suspected as the general in question.

When pressed further to disclose a name, the President simply replied: "I am not a Malay Intel who discloses everything he knows."

Abdurrahman also dismissed reports that several senior generals had threatened to resign in protest against his interference in internal military affairs.


The President further disclosed that in his capacity as TNI's supreme commander, he was studying suggestions of a possible "repositioning" of the elite Army's Special Troops (Kopassus).

He said he had ordered a trusted official to lead the study on Kopassus before making a decision whether to enlarge or to trim it down.

"There is an opinion that Kopassus must be slimmed down, but there is also a view to maintain its current position. I must first see the study," he noted.

Kopassus has been put in hot water after a special military tribunal sentenced 11 of its personnel to between 12 months and 22 months last year for abducting student activists in the twilight of former president Soeharto's tenure in 1997.

Meanwhile, TNI deputy chief Gen. Fachrul Rozi told journalists on Wednesday that he had met Abdurrahman to assure him that there was not a single soldier, including regional commanders, who is not loyal to the President.

The general said he met the president to personally assure him just a few hours after Tuesday's televised interview.

"I have conveyed to him my confidence that it is impossible for an officer or Pangdam to be unloyal to the President," Fachrul said after accompanying Abdurrahman during a meeting with China's Army deputy chief Lt. Gen. Qian Shugen at Bina Graha. (prb)