President’s handling of military is one bright spot

There is one very bright spot in President Abdurrahman Wahid’s six-months in office: his effective handling of the Indonesian military.

Dr Amien Rais gave him a score of eight out of 10 for sidelining the armed forces (TNI).

He said the President’s role in revamping the top brass and bringing in reformers was the first big step in pulling the TNI out of national politics.

“This is his biggest achievement and I salute him for doing something which many thought was impossible,” he said. “He has tried to reposition the military to play its original role as the backbone of security and defence.”

The military reshuffle last month weeded out conservative generals linked to former military strongman General Wiranto. Another round of changes is expected soon, especially at the regional level.

But his success in dealing with the organisation that for so long held the reins of power in the country was received badly by several senior officers, especially those who were removed.

Asked what he thought of the removal of Gen Wiranto from his ministerial post, Dr Amien said that it was “a good move” although he felt the general should have been given more respect.

Dr Amien warned of the risks of “belittling” the TNI and pushing it into a corner because the military could respond in an “unpredictable” way.

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