The Jakarta Post
The Navy and Air Force chiefs of staff sworn in earlier this month are expected to spearhead efforts to safeguard Indonesia’s territorial integrity, experts say, amid persistent challenges by foreign vessels encroaching on the country’s sovereignty.
On May 20, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo led the swearing in ceremony for Admiral Yudo Margono and Air Chief Marshal Fadjar Prasetyo as they took on their new roles as chiefs of staff of the Navy and Air Force respectively.
Yudo replaces Admiral Siwi Sukma Adji, who is retiring this month, while Fadjar is to replace ACM Yuyu Sutisna, who is expected to retire next month.
The two high-ranking officers, who received their fourth stars in line with rank requirements for the chief of staff position, represent the graduating class of 1988 from their respective military academies.
Yudo and Fadjar are expected to lead their forces in safeguarding Indonesia’s territorial integrity against conventional threats, said international relations expert Dewi Fortuna Anwar of the Indonesia Institute of Sciences (LIPI).
“The Navy and the Air Force are two forces that are expected to defend our sovereignty, as the Army is more actively involved in internal security operations,” Dewi told The Jakarta Post recently.
As such, she said it was vital that the two military chiefs would continue with the last stage of the minimum essential forces (MEF) program, a 15-year defense modernization drive first set out by former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2010.
Both Yudo and Fadjar were previously in charge of Joint Defense Area Commands (Kogabwilhan) I and II, respectively, which were set up in commemoration of the 74th anniversary of the Indonesian Military (TNI) last year as a means of deterrence against outside threats and to improve branch interoperability.
On Wednesday, TNI commander ACM Hadi Tjahjanto signed off on a transfer order for 78 high-ranking officers, including replacements for both Yudo and Fadjar.
Rear Adm. I Nyoman Gede Ariawan, formerly the commander of the Navy’s Third Fleet Armada, was promoted as commander of Joint Defense Area Command I, based in Riau Islands province, while Air Vice Marshal Imran Baidirus was promoted from commander of the Indonesian National Air Defense Command (Kohanudnas) to commander of Joint Defense Area Command II, based in East Kalimantan, kompas.com reports.
Indonesia’s porous borders have long been subject to illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing (IUUF) practices by foreign vessels, with cases often recorded in the North Natuna Sea, Riau Islands province.
Diplomatic tensions soared between Indonesia and China early this year after a number of Chinese fishing vessels were found to be repeatedly poaching fish in Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), where it has exclusive rights to marine resources.
As recently as last month, the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry also detained two Vietnamese-flagged fishing vessels in the same area.
Considering the sophisticated nature of Indonesia’s border security requirements, military experts such as Khairul Fahmi of the Institute of Security and Strategic Studies (ISESS) have raised hopes that the two military chiefs could build up synergy and improve coordination among relevant stakeholders.
“We still hear about illegal vessels and aircraft illegally passing through our territory. This shows that the management of maritime territory and airspace should be improved with updated strategy, oversight and regulation,” said Khairul. “Coordination and communications between them should be good.”
Yudo has promised to continue the programs of his predecessor, particularly as regards modernization of the Navy’s primary weapons system (alutsista).
“When it comes to the Navy, that entails the naval integrated fleet weapons system [SSAT] that includes warships, the Marine Corps, military bases and even naval aircraft, so that our strength is [concentrated in] upholding sovereignty and rule of law at sea,” Yudo said at the State Palace last week.
He also said he would continue patrolling operations despite the COVID-19 outbreak, giving reassurance that naval officers would continue to practice physical distancing measures and wearing masks. Yudo was also previously part of the integrated task force set up to manage emergency medical facilities in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, as well as on the islands of Galang, Sebaru and Natuna, all of which are located in the Riau Islands.
Meanwhile, Fadjar has said that President Jokowi had specifically asked him to safeguard Indonesia’s airspace borders.
“There is some emphasis, particularly for the Air Force, on securing our airspace, which we will follow up in spite of the current situation with the pandemic,” Fadjar said.