The Jakarta Post
It has been less than two weeks since Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto assumed the top post at the Indonesian Military (TNI), but he has already sprung a surprise. In an unprecedented move, he repealed the promotion and rotation of 16 high-ranking officers ordered by his predecessor Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo.
Hadi was exercising his authority, but regardless of the reasons behind the decision, it begs a clear explanation in order to avoid speculation.
In 1998, then Armed Forces (ABRI) commander Gen. Wiranto replaced the Army’s Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad), chief Lt. Gen. Johny Lumintang, merely 17 hours after Johny took on the post, making him the shortest serving Kostrad commander in history.
Political circumstances at that time, in the wake of the resignation of long-time ruler Soeharto, justified the unusual move. But obviously, it was not the case this time around.
Hadi signed a decree dated Dec. 19 that annulled the Dec. 4 reshuffle of 16 of the country’s 85 TNI officers, mostly from the Army. They include Kostrad chief Lt. Gen. Edy Rahmayadi and Marine Corps chief Maj. Gen. Bambang Suswantono, two of eight strategic forces commanders who directly answer to the TNI chief, according to a 2016 Presidential Regulation on the TNI’s organizational structure.
As a consequence of the presidential regulation, all eight strategic operational command posts must go to officers who are trusted by the President, the supreme TNI commander. Besides, in line with bureaucratic rules, the appointment of TNI positions reserved for three-star generals requires the President’s approval.
Edy had tendered his resignation to focus on his bid to contest the North Sumatra gubernatorial election in June next year.
In response to Hadi’s swift turnaround, Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, a former Army chief himself, said TNI soldiers were trained to stay tough in facing any challenge. But with Hadi refusing to reveal the real motive behind his sudden decision, the public began smelling signs of a sour relationship between him and Gatot.
Hadi’s rise to the TNI’s top job earlier this month was also laden with peculiarity, although it had been highly anticipated, from his nomination by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to the official transfer of the TNI command baton, which took just five days. The President demanded the accelerated transfer of power, despite the fact that Gatot was slated to end his military service next March.
Hadi’s revocation of Gatot’s reshuffle has only added to the confusion surrounding the TNI’s internal affairs.
Due to constant security threats coming from both inside and outside the country, TNI solidity is imperative, and we only want the armed forces to unite and keep their commitment to maintaining professionalism. Internal rifts would not only hurt the TNI, but also the whole nation.
If there is a lesson Hadi and future TNI commanders can learn from the reshuffle drama, it’s that they should refrain from making strategic decisions, whatever the motives and justification, when they know their tenures are numbered. Otherwise, they could potentially be planting a time bomb for their successors.