Yogyakarta – The replacement of three Indonesian armed forces (TNI) chiefs of staff which took place yesterday (18/2) is believed by a political observer from the Gajah Mada University (UGM), Riswandha Imawan, to be an effort by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to strengthen his legitimacy within military ranks. Imawan says the three chiefs of staff could unite thinking between the military and civilian government, not like previous appointments which gave an impression of clumsiness.
The following are excerpts from and interview with Imawan which took place in Yogyakarta on Friday February 18.
How do you view the replacements of the TNI chiefs of staff?
I believe this represents a step by SBY (Yudhoyono) to begin to seek out and strengthen his legitimacy in military circles. Because we know with certainty, that SBY’s name is “not very popular” in military circles even though SBY formerly held the rank of a general.
Your reasons for saying this?
The people chosen to became chiefs of staff are close confidants, people SBY trusts. Their ideology is the same as SBY. As an example, army chief of staff Djoko Santoso was a former commander of the Pamungkas 072 military command in Yogyakarta, Central Java. It was earlier reported that Santoso was there (Pamungkas 072) at SBY’s request. So in choosing a confidant, this can be interpreted in that way. The only problem is, it will be difficult for SBY to find a new TNI chief.
Recently there have been requests from the airforce to be given a turn as TNI chief, because to date there has never been an airforce officer in the post of TNI chief, while the other wings have all had a turn. So, if the airforce’s request to be given the post of TNI chief is granted, this will indeed weaken SBY’s legitimacy within the military, especially in the ranks of the army. Everyone knows that the army is like the older brother and as such must be put first.
On the other hand, based on prevailing regulations, the TNI chief must be a former chief of staff, the one available now is army chief of staff Ryamizard Ryacudu. People know Ryacudu is a person who is loyal to former President Megawati Sukarnoputri and SBY could be seen to be tail-ending Mega. So, what SBY needs is a person who is loyal to him but at the same time the people who are loyal to him are currently still serving as chiefs of staff.
So, what must be done by Yudhoyono to overcome this problems in order that his legitimacy within the military can remain strong?
Because the decision over who will become TNI chief is still in the hands of the president, I think SBY will continue to play it carefully. Meaning with the retirement of TNI chief Endriartono Sutarto, he will still make way for Ryacudu to become TNI chief and in six months time he can be replaced. After six months, Ryacudu will be replaced by Santoso because Santoso will have fulfilled the requirements, because he has served as a chief of staff for six months.
This is safer than appointing a airforce officer to become the TNI chief and in six months time Santoso, who is still a Lieutenant-General can be made a full general. It would be odd if a Lieutenant-General were to hold the post of TNI chief wouldn’t it.
If Ryacudu is replaced is such a short time, won’t this not create another problem, bearing in mind that Ryacudu is also has deep roots within the ranks of the military?
I don’t think so because this is merely an issue of command. If right now Ryacudu is made TNI chief, at least it will minimse the view that SBY is too extreme with regard to Mega. Aside from this, SBY needs time to make Santoso a general first. (yuk)
[Translated by James Balowski.]