Military revamp ‘will cut support for Wiranto’
Coming up are moves to reduce the number of the armed forces’ territorial commands, with a hint of more reshuffles
THE Indonesian armed forces (TNI) plans to reduce the number of its extensive territorial commands in the country in a move that could diminish the military’s political role further.
Army chief General Tyasno Sudarto said the plan was in line with the ongoing TNI reforms.
But analysts believe the Thursday announcement hinted at a new round of military reshuffles that could see a more extensive weeding out of loyalists of General Wiranto, the former Political and Security Affairs Minister, and opponents of the current regime.
Gen Tyasno, who made the disclosure in an address to military commanders and retired generals, said some provinces – such as Central Java – and cities – like Jakarta – would see a drop in TNI presence at district and village levels.
But trouble spots in Aceh, Irian Jaya, the Riau province and other remote areas would still maintain the same troop levels, or even see an increase.
He said: “The number of military commands is likely to be reduced and the structure will also be evaluated and adjusted in accordance with the present situation.”
He noted that the 16 commands, all under the army, had been slammed by the public for the pervasive presence they gave the military, right down to life at village level.
TNI critics charge that the territorial structure that gained ascendancy during the 30 years of former President Suharto’s rule had allowed the military to dabble in politics and abuse its powers.
Gen Tyasno himself acknowledged that the system was ineffective given the deployment of unprofessional soldiers in the field and the lack of coordination between the government and TNI.
“The military has been criticised for taking a security approach instead of a social-welfare approach in handling problems and for siding with the government rather than giving protection to the people,” he noted.
“We are returning to our original mission of winning the people’s hearts.”
The army chief did not reveal when the reorganisation would take effect, saying the TNI would leave it up to the government and Parliament.
Political observers suspect his comments were aimed partly at scoring points with President Abdurrahman Wahid in the hope of securing the coveted TNI chief’s post.
The four-star Javanese general is said to have become one of the strongest allies of the 59-year-old Indonesian leader after dumping Gen Wiranto, who up until last year was his chief patron.
Some analysts believe a deeper reason for calling for a review of the territorial apparatus was that it would give an excuse for another TNI reshuffle.
Last week’s changes in the military affected the top brass but left the regional commanders relatively unscathed.
Sources believe a second and third reshuffle would clean out the TNI of Wiranto loyalists.