Headlines

New TNI commander vows
to close military businesses

Changing of the guard: New Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Adm. Agus Suhartono (left) is congratulated by his predecessor Gen. Djoko Santoso after being sworn in by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Tuesday. Also inaugurated at the same ceremony was Vice Adm. Soeparno, who replaced Agus as chief of the Navy. JP/Ricky Yudhistira

Newly-installed Indonesian Military (TNI) commander Adm. Agus Suhartono vowed Tuesday to carry on the TNI reforms, including speeding up efforts to terminate the military’s much-criticized involvement in business activities.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono installed the former Navy chief as military commander replacing Gen. Djoko Santoso at the State Palace on Tuesday. The Navy is now led by Vice Adm. Soeparno, who was inaugurated by Yudhoyono along with Agus.   

Agus, who promptly secured the House of Representatives’ approval during a “fit-and-proper” test interview on Monday, is the second admiral to be appointed as military commander after Widodo Adi Sucipto, who served from 1999 to 2002 under former president Abdurrahman Wahid.

Before then, the TNI leadership was dominated by the army.  

“The takeover of military businesses is now underway. We have been working on this,” Agus told reporters after his inauguration.

The Blitar-born admiral declined, however, to set a target as to when military business reforms would be completed, saying the task should not be carried out by the TNI alone.

“We have to work together to finish this,” he said.

Human rights groups and military analysts have long voiced concerns over the military’s businesses activities, which they say were the roots of many cases of human rights abuses and corruption.

The 2004 TNI Law imposes a five-year deadline for the government to take over all businesses owned and run directly or indirectly by the military.

But President Yudhoyono issued a decree five days before the expiry, postponing the target date for an unspecified period. The decree, mandating the setting up of a national team on military business takeovers, has been decried by rights groups

as inadequate for failure to dismantle the armed forces business network.

By 2007, the military  had 23 foundations and more than 1,000 cooperatives as well as owning shares in 55 firms and leases on thousands of government properties.

Official data valued these gross assets at Rp 3.2 trillion (US$358 million) at the end of 2007 with annual profits of Rp 268 million.

Agus said the military was ready to help the police fight terrorism, but swiftly added their involvement should be in accordance with a regulation now being discussed at the National Antiterrorism Agency (BNPT).

“We are still deliberating the draft regulation. I hope there will be better synergy between the TNI
and the National Police in the future,” he said.

 The army’s special forces (Kopassus) the navy’s Detachment Jala Mangkara and the airforce’s Detachment Bravo have been prepared to combat terrorism.

“We have always been ready. It now depends on how we use them. We have the capability,” Agus was quoted as saying by Antara.

National Police chief Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri said last week that the police would involve the military in its fight against terrorism.

He made the statement following the brazen armed attack on the Hamparan Perak police station by unidentified gunmen who are believed to be members of a local terrorist network and also linked
to recent bank robbery in Medan.

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