Jul 23, 2014

Indonesia - Dismissal of Indonesia's army chief seen linked to politics

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Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono appointed on Tuesday Lt. Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo as the new Army chief of staff to replace Gen. Budiman, who was abruptly dismissed from his position three months before reaching retirement age.

Gatot was one of three candidates proposed by Indonesian Military (TNI) commander Gen. Moeldoko to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

TNI spokesperson Maj. Gen. Fuad Basya said Moeldoko had proposed to Yudhoyono three names of possible successors to Budiman; Army Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad) commander Lt. Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo; deputy Army chief of staff Lt. Gen. M. Munir and secretary-general of the National Defence Council (Watannas) Lt. Gen. Waris.

“Yes, Pak Gatot is the replacement,” TNI spokesman Maj. Gen. Fuad Basya said.

Speculation was rife that the sudden decision to replace Budiman was due to his political involvement in the run-up to the July 9 presidential election.

Rumours about Budiman’s alleged partiality in the presidential election circulated after Yudhoyono lashed out at military and police generals who were engaged in talks with political parties that solicited their support for the two presidential tickets in July 9 presidential election.

Yudhoyono alleged that certain politicians had urged the generals to disobey him.

“[The individual said] there is no need to listen to the direction of the President, who is like a sinking ship. Let us just hop on the new ship that sails,” Yudhoyono said before scores of generals on June 2 at the Defence Ministry building.

Budiman denied he was the one who made the controversial remarks.

“I never did such a thing. I am a warrior, not a traitor. I walk on the right and straight path,” he said.

Budiman added that in his last days in power, he would remain focused on maintaining security following the announcement of the elected president.

The Presidential Palace denied Budiman’s dismissal had anything to do with the presidential election.

Presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha said Yudhoyono had considered replacing the Army chief of staff months ago given that Budiman would retire in September 2014.

“This has more to do with the regeneration of TNI leadership,” Julian said.

Also on Tuesday, Moeldoko defended the decision to dismiss Budiman, saying there was nothing political about the move despite the fact that it was made on the same day the General Elections Commission (KPU) announced the final tally of the presidential election.

“The announcement of the presidential election result is a political activity while the dismissal of the Army chief of staff is an organisational matter.”

Intelligence analyst from the Indonesia Institute for Defence and Strategic Studies (LESPERSSI), Rizal Dharma Putra, said that Yudhoyono may have been angry about

Budiman’s meeting with Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri prior to the presidential election.

“There is no urgency to replace Budiman now, aside from political reasons. Budiman met with Megawati, without telling the President first. Yudhoyono saw this as inappropriate behavior,” he said.

Budiman was inaugurated by Yudhoyono as the Army chief of staff at the State Palace in late August 2013, replacing Moledoko who was named military chief at that time.

Budiman, the former Defence Ministry secretary-general who was once also deputy Army chief of staff, was at the top of the military academy’s 1978 class and was awarded the Adhi Makayasa medal. He is also known as one of the Army’s brightest.

Ina Parlina and Yuliasri Perdani

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