Subject: DPA: Indonesian president sacks army, navy chiefs in latest shake-up

Deutsche Presse-Agentur

October 9, 2000

Indonesian president sacks army, navy chiefs in latest shake-up


In the latest reshuffle in Indonesia's divided, confused armed forces, President Abdurrahman Wahid on Monday sacked the chiefs of the army and navy and replaced them during an afternoon ceremony.

The reshuffle, which had been anticipated for several days, comes as the Indonesian Defence Forces (TNI) continues an internal power struggle while simultaneously resisting attempts to subjugated it to civilian rule.

Army General Tyasno Sudarto and navy Admiral Achmad Sutjipto were the latest casualties, but it remained unclear why they were sacked. They were replaced by deputy army chief General Endriantono Sutarto and navy Admiral Inbroko Sastrowiryono.

"From an organisational point of view, we need to replace these officers," Air Vice Marshall Graito Usodo, the TNI spokesman, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

Asked whether the officers were doing their jobs properly, Usodo said, "No."

Replacements at this level are commonly related to power politics with the presidential palace and TNI, as loyalties and alliances ebb and flow. The announcement of the reshuffle was delayed during the weekend, reportedly because Wahid and the top brass disagreed over the president's candidate for new deputy army chief.

During the ceremony at the palace, Wahid reiterated promises to modernize the TNI's antiquated defence systems, but warned that its days of dominance in Indonesian political affairs were over.

"The government will provide additional equipment to the TNI and improve the soldiers' welfare, but that does not mean a revival of militarism," Wahid said.

The TNI, in particular the army, was the country's most feared and powerful institution during former president Suharto's 32-year regime, playing a central role in politics as well as effectively running far-flung provinces.

However, the pro-democracy movement that led to Suharto's downfall in 1998 stripped away much of the military's luster, and it was soon being publicly castigated for its past human rights abuses.

Wahid has sought to tame the TNI since taking office one year ago, while Indonesia's prolonged economic crisis exposed the military's lack of training, personnel, equipment and discipline.

These shortcomings were exposed during the past year as the military was unable to contain growing violence in restive Aceh province and the eastern Moluccan islands, and helped destroy East Timor after it voted for independence.

In addition, military and political extremists linked to Suharto are believed to be behind a wave of recent violence as a warning to Wahid to stop corruption investigations against the Suharto family and past human rights abuses by the TNI.

The TNI's top brass defined these troops as "rogue elements," but as the military increasingly defies civilian authority, many are wondering whether they outnumber the TNI as an institution.

Meanwhile the military's different branches are vying for increased power and influence, creating internal frictions and making the TNI look more dangerous.

Elements of the army have resisted Wahid's efforts to promote reformist officers who support civilian rule, and as a result the TNI continues to hold significant sway in political affairs.

The military still holds 38 appointed seats in the national assembly despite pledges to retreat from politics.

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