Leopard tanks only one
option, says military chief

Tanks for the memories: Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro (center), accompanied by Deputy Defense Minister Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin (left) and Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Adm. Agus Suhartono, at hearing at the House of Representatives in Jakarta on Tuesday. Lawmakers are questioning ministry plans to buy Leopard tanks from the Netherlands. JP/P.J. Leo

The plan to upgrade the country’s military equipment with the procurement of Leopard tanks is still open to revision.

The public should not, therefore, make it the subject of discussion.

This was the view of Indonesian Military (TNI) commander Adm. Agus Suhartono, who said on Tuesday that the Leopard tank was only one option in helping to equip the army.

“It is not a final decision. The Leopard tank is only one option; there are many other tanks that are also under consideration,” he said.

Echoing him, Army chief of staff Lt. Gen. Pramono Edhie Wibowo confirmed that the government was open to suggestions in its attempt to better equip the Army.

“We didn’t pinpoint the Leopard tank as it is just one of the purchase options we’re considering. However, I did say that the [Leopard] tank is of a higher quality compared to others. Negotiations are still ongoing,” he told members of the House of Representatives (DPR) Commission I overseeing defense.

Pramono said purchasing such a good-quality tank was necessary to build the army’s strength,
as well as to support any joint military trainings with neighboring countries.

“The procurement aims to put our technology at the same level as that of neighboring countries so that we can catch up with them in joint trainings. Indonesia is one of a few countries in Asia which doesn’t have the Leopard tank. The other countries are Timor Leste and Papua New Guinea,” he said.

Pramono added that he would appoint a group of officers to continue the negotiations on Jan. 30.

“We will stop asking if the Netherlands refuse to sell the Leopard tanks to us. We will not beg them,” he said, adding that he would soon meet representatives from Germany to discuss possibilities.

Dutch lawmakers had urged the Dutch government not to sell the secondhand Leopard tanks to
Indonesia because they were worried Indonesia would misuse the tanks due to escalating human rights violations across the archipelago, particularly in Papua.

When asked about the matter, Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro refused to divulge details, saying, “Wait until the Dutch representatives come here.”

Meanwhile, lawmakers from the House’s Commission I also questioned the procurement plan, saying that it reflected how the country’s defense gave little attention to the Navy or Air Force.

House member Susaningtyas Kertapati questioned the compatibility of the Leopard tanks with the country’s infrastructure conditions.

“Can we use such tanks on our roads, which are mostly in a bad condition? Indonesia’s poor infrastructure won’t be able to accommodate these heavy tanks,” she said.

She added that the Defense Ministry should have prioritized the procurement of patrol ships to guard the country’s maritime borders as Indonesia had far greater sea than land mass. (msa)

Post Your Say

Selected comments will be published in the Readers’ Forum page of our print newspaper.