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Jakarta Post
The Jakarta Post
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Commentary: Sutiyoso'€™s nomination: Questions on capacity, historical burden

  • Imanuddin Razak

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Fri, June 19, 2015 | 01:18 pm

The country'€™s president constitutionally has the prerogative and the liberty to nominate and appoint candidates for top posts in the government and the military, including for the post of the chief of the National Intelligence Agency (BIN). It is therefore on his own prerogative that President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo recently nominated Lt. Gen. (ret) Sutiyoso for the post of BIN chief to replace Lt. Gen. (ret) Marciano Norman.

The President'€™s official letter on Sutiyoso'€™s nomination has been sent to the Speaker of the House of Representatives Setya Novanto. The letter would then be brought to the House'€™s plenary session and later on be handed to the House'€™s Commission I on information, defense and foreign affairs to hold a confirmation hearing. The House will then write back to the President regarding its position on the nomination.

Sutiyoso spent a larger part of his military career in the Army'€™s Special Forces (Kopassus), including a few years'€™ stint as assistant for intelligence to the Kopassus chief. He was involved in a number of military operations in the former Indonesian Timor Leste province and Aceh.

Sutiyoso'€™s nomination has received mixed reactions, including from the country'€™s political and security circles. Support, among others, has come from the outgoing BIN chief himself, who considers the former governor of Jakarta as a suitable successor. Opposition, meanwhile, has come from within the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the party of the President himself.

It was PDI-P lawmaker Tubagus Hasanuddin who has questioned Sutiyoso'€™s nomination for the country'€™s top intelligence post. Hasanuddin particularly highlights Sutiyoso'€™s age as his main concern. '€œIsn'€™t he too old for the job?'€ he asked.

Hasanuddin'€™s argument was not groundless as Sutiyoso, if eventually endorsed by the House, will be the oldest officer ever to be at the helm of the country'€™s supreme intelligence authority. Sutiyoso will turn 71 this December. The youngest ever intelligence chief was Col. Zulkifli Lubis, appointed by founding president Sukarno as chief of the then Indonesian National Secret Agency (BRANI) at the age of 22 in 1945.

Soeharto, Sukarno'€™s successor as president, also appointed relatively young candidates for the post of chief of the State Intelligence Coordinating Board (Bakin) during his 32-year-old rule. Sutopo Yuwono was 41-years-old when he was appointed as Bakin chief. Sutopo'€™s successor, Yoga Sugama, was 49 at the time of his appointment. Other succeeding Bakin chiefs under Soeharto '€” Sudibyo and Moetojib '€” were in their 50s when appointed.

The less-than-one-year-old presidency of BJ Habibie, however, made a drastic change when he appointed ZA Maulani as Bakin chief when the appointee was already 63-years-old. The reformasi government of president Abdurrahman '€œGus Dur'€ Wahid appointed AM Hendropriyono as BIN chief when the latter was 56-years-old. Megawati Soekarnoputri, who succeeded Gus Dur, retained Hendropriyono for the post.

The 10-year rule of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had three different BIN chiefs. First was Syamsir Siregar, who was 63 when appointed. His successor Sutanto was 59 years old when installed, while the last BIN chief appointed by Yudhoyono, Marciano Norman, was 57 when he was installed in 2011.

Frankly there were reports of dissatisfaction on the performance of intelligence chiefs, particularly those in an aging condition.

Another major concern voiced by Hasanuddin was the alleged involvement of Sutiyoso in the July 26, 1996, attack on the PDI-P'€™s headquarters in Central Jakarta, which resulted in the deaths of dozens of party members. Sutiyoso was then Jakarta Military commander.

Sutiyoso also has a historical burden, particularly in regards with his involvement in military operations, which could disrupt his liberty to perform his tasks as BIN chief. One case is the death of five Australian journalists in Timor Leste in 1975.

As Jakarta governor, Sutiyoso visited Australia in 2007 as a guest of the New South Wales state premier to revive ties between Jakarta and the state. Sutiyoso cut short his visit there after officers from the New South Wales coroner'€™s office forced their way into his hotel room in Sydney to deliver a summons to testify at an investigation into the Australian journalists'€™ deaths.

Sutiyoso was the second retired Indonesian Army general targeted by the New South Wales state coroner in relation to the 1975 tragedy. The office first issued a similar warrant for Lt. Gen. (ret) Yunus Yosfiah.

Similar and even worse harassment against Sutiyoso could occur abroad in the future.

Another concern is Sutiyoso'€™s personal capacity in regards with the latest security threats '€” cyber terrorism and asymmetrical warfare '€” that he had never encountered in his past military career, including during his terms as an intelligence officer.

Speculations tare hat his nomination is connected to his chairmanship of the Indonesian Unity and Justice Party (PKPI), among political parties grouped in the Great Indonesia Coalition that supported Jokowi'€™s presidential campaign.

While this may be politically valid such a nomination and appointment, however, should not disregard performance-related aspects as they would ultimately determine one'€™s success in office. And Sutiyoso should not be an exception.

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