Sat, 15 Jan 2000

TNI reshuffle signals new balance of power: Analysts

JAKARTA (JP): Analysts said the recent reshuffle in the Indonesian Military (TNI) was an attempt by President Abdurrahman Wahid to reduce the institutional dominance of the Army.

The recent appointment of non-Army officers to positions in the TNI traditionally reserved for Army personnel is an obvious indication of the tactful reshuffle which is underway, Johanes Kristiadi of the Center for Strategic and International Studies told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

He said Abdurrahman was apparently trying not to repeat the mistakes of his predecessors, who gave the Army preferential treatment.

"Gus Dur simply wants to balance the power within TNI. It's been an open secret that the Army for more than 30 years has been regarded as the eldest son of the armed forces, and therefore it received certain privileges at the expense of other elements in TNI," Kristiadi said, referring to the President by his nickname.

He said in the past Army generals openly cooperated with the ruling Golkar party and were involved in major businesses because the Army was regarded as a strong patron.

Kristiadi said he assumed Abdurrahman preferred to work with civilians. "But it doesn't mean that Gus Dur is inferior in the eyes of the military. He's just careful and at the same time thinks strategically for the sake of the military itself."

He said he believed it was a matter of time before the military could act independently, including from the head of state, as people learned that the president was not a king.

TNI spokesman Army Maj. Gen. Sudradjat became the latest to be affected by the reshuffle when Abdurrahman announced Sudrajat would be replaced by Air Rear Marshal Graito Usodo, not Husodo as reported earlier.

Abdurrahman's statement was somewhat unusual because the president traditionally does not discuss the appointment of third-level officials.

Abdurrahman said he had personally requested TNI chief Adm. Widodo A.S. make the recent moves, including the appointment of Air Rear Marshal Ian Santoso Perdanakusumah to head the TNI Intelligence Board in place of Gen. Tyasno Sudarto, who took over the Army's top post.

The President did not elaborate on why he requested the changes, merely saying it was "for improvement".

The appointment of Widodo in October as TNI chief was a major break from the past, as he was the first non-Army officer to take over the helm of TNI.

Kristiadi said Widodo should judge whether the appointments requested by the President helped improve the military's image or politically benefited certain groups.

The image of the TNI in general and the Army in particular has waned since the fall of former president Soeharto, who was a former Army general, in May 1998. Allegations of human rights abuses have been leveled at the military from across the country.

"That's why Gus Dur is trying to whip TNI and rouse them from their long, dark decline," Kristiadi said.

Another military observer, Indria Samego from the Indonesian National Institute of Sciences, agreed with Kristiadi's analysis, saying Abdurrahman was forced to "intervene" in the military due to its sluggishness in pursuing reform.

"It's probably because Gus Dur regards Widodo as unable or unwilling to make any changes due to opposition from many senior Army officers," Indria said in an interview with private television station SCTV.

Separately, outgoing TNI spokesman Maj. Gen. Sudrajat said each leader had their own style, adding that now was the right time for Abdurrahman and TNI to adjust to one another.

"Gus Dur, with his leadership style, is trying to adjust to TNI and TNI is also trying to become attuned to Gus Dur's style of leadership," he said.

The reshuffle itself was described by Sudrajat as being a double blessing. "In the eyes of the public, this shows that the structure of TNI is not a solid construction which resists reform, and among the military the change should be regarded as a balancing effort."

Sudrajat denied he was a victim of the reshuffle. "No, not at all. I even feel grateful because the President himself announced my replacement." (emf)