Fri, 18 May 2001

TNI chiefs say no to dissolving DPR

JAKARTA (JP): In another signal of the souring relations between Abdurrahman Wahid and the military, Navy Chief of Staff Adm. Indroko Sastrowiryono joined his Army counterpart on Thursday in warning the President not to dissolve the House of Representatives.

Indroko said he had advised the President to refrain from taking a step that "will only bring adversity to the people".

"We asked the President to consider it wisely before taking a decision, to avoid unexpected consequences. If the President insists on issuing the decree, this country will have to pay dearly," Indroko said after a ceremony marking the opening of a joint exercise between the Indonesian and U.S. navies.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Endriartono Sutarto twice within a week voiced his opposition to Abdurrahman's suggestion that he would issue a decree dissolving the House, which handed the President a second censure earlier this month for two financial scandals.

Endriartono said such a move would only worsen the already poor relationship between the President and the House, aside from killing democracy and creating chaos.

Indroko, Endriartono and Air Force Chief of Staff Air Marshall Hanafie Asnan had a breakfast meeting on May 5 with the President, who reportedly told the three of his plan to issue a decree dissolving the House. Abdurrahman has denied the reports, despite Endriartono's statements.

Gus Dur, as the embattled President is known, sent the House another strong message on Wednesday, warning it not to violate the Constitution when carrying out its duties.

Cracks in the relationship between Abdurrahman and the military first became visible when the Indonesian Military/National Police faction in the House voted to censure the President on Feb. 1. The faction abstained in the following censure motion, which resulted in a second memorandum of censure being issued against Abdurrahman on April 30.

When asked whether the Indonesian Navy would have to obey the President, in his capacity as the supreme commander of the Indonesian Military (TNI), if he issued a decree dissolving the House, Indroko said: "We will leave the matter to our superior, the TNI chief. We are not pledging allegiance to an individual, but to a system."

Indroko admitted that the TNI was placed in a difficult position in the protracted dispute between the President and the House, since "the two feel they are carrying out their political roles in a proper manner".

Indroko also said he was opposed to the replacement of any military leaders for political purposes.

"Any change of guard in the TNI or the armed forces must be carried out for the sake of organizational and professional interests. If replacements were sparked by political purposes, I think it would be incorrect," he said.

Indroko was commenting on reports that Gus Dur wished to replace senior military officers critical of him.

U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Robert S. Gelbard, who attended Thursday's ceremony, hailed the TNI for its "very positive role in supporting the democratic process in Indonesia".

"No one ever said that creating a democracy is easy, and these will be difficult years for Indonesia. But as I see, the Indonesian Military has a strong commitment to develop it (democracy) by giving more authority to the civilian leaders.

"Over the whole political turmoil which has been taking place in recent months, there are such calls for the TNI to take a more prominent role in unfolding political events, but the Indonesian Military has firmly supported the Constitution," Gelbard said.

Speaking in Bandung, Army Deputy Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Kiki Syahnakri reaffirmed the armed force's stance vis-a-vis the President over the reported plan to dissolve the House.

"If the decree is issued, the House will predictably resist and a special session of People's Consultative Assembly will be expedited. We are more concerned with the result of the conflict, as political party supporters will clash and more people will fall victim," Kiki said.

Taking a contradictory stance was a former chief of the Army Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad), Lt. Gen. Agus Wirahadikusumah, who criticized the TNI for having become trapped in the political power struggle.

"I see that political developments have been unfolding unfairly. If an administration fails to function due to a dispute between the political elite, as is happening now, any constitution will allow the government to issue a decree to dissolve the House.

"By opposing the President's wish (to issue the decree), the TNI has become involved in the maneuvers to topple him," Agus told The Jakarta Post.

Agus' statement came following an overnight meeting with Endriartono, in which he openly criticized the Army chief of staff for his failure to consider the President's position. (02/25)