Air Force ready to take TNI top post: Hanafie


Air Force Chief Marshall Hanafie Asnan welcomed on Sunday support for the rotation of the Indonesian Military (TNI) chief post among the Army, Navy and Air Force, but said that he would leave it to the legislators to decide.

Speaking to the media on the sidelines of a drill for the Air Force' 56th anniversary celebrations at Halim Perdanakusuma air base in East Jakarta, Hanafie stressed that it was the legislators' prerogative to make such a political decision.

"I am glad that some legislators are currently proposing that the next TNI chief should come from the Air Force. It's their task to make a political decision on the issue. We, the military, will just follow as we are not permitted to be involved in day-to-day politics," Hanafie said on Sunday.

Earlier, Lt. Gen. Agus Widjojo, former TNI chief for territorial affairs and MPR deputy speaker, suggested that the position of TNI chief be rotated among Army, Air Force and Navy officers "in order to create professionalism within the military."

People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) Speaker Amien Rais shared Agus' opinion, calling on both the government and the House of Representatives (DPR) to enact a law regulating the rotation of TNI chief post among the Army, Navy and Air Force.

TNI is currently led by Widodo A.S., a Navy admiral whose military service has been extended twice. His appointment in 1999 as TNI chief by former president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid broke more than three decades of dominance by the Army under the leadership of former authoritarian leader Soeharto.

Many had expected that Widodo's appointment would pave the way for the rotation of TNI chief post among the Army, Navy and Air Force, under which the next TNI chief would come the Air Force.

But the recent extension of the military service of Army Chief of Staff Endriartono Sutarto has triggered speculation that President Megawati Soekarnoputri, as the TNI Supreme Commander, would appoint an Army officer as the next TNI chief.

The extension of service of a military officer is decided by the President upon the recommendation of incumbent TNI chief and other high-ranking military officers.

According to Agus, an Air Force officer should now be promoted to the top position considering that none of its personnel had ever been appointed as TNI chief.

A defense law enacted in November 2001 stipulates that the TNI chief should be chosen from among the incumbent or former chiefs of staff of the Army, Air Force and Navy. As such, four high-ranking military officers qualify for the job and they are former Army chief Gen. Tyasno Sudarto, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Endriartono Sutarto, Air Force Chief of Staff Marshall Hanafie Asnan, and Navy Chief of Staff Adm. Indroko Sastrowiryono.

If the rotation system is already in place, the next TNI chief should be Marshal Hanafie Asnan.

Hanafie, a 1969 Air Force Academy graduate, had once had a close relationship with Gus Dur. Many had speculated that the extension of his term of office in November 2000 was aimed at allowing him to take the top position in TNI.

Hanafie further said on Sunday that the Air Force was continually preparing its personnel to hold any post at the TNI headquarters, including the top post.

He, however, refused to comment on whether or not he was ready to be the TNI chief, saying only that "it was the President's prerogative to decide."

The Air Force anniversary falls on April 9. President Megawati and TNI Chief Admiral Widodo reportedly will not be attending the celebrations.

*Published by The Jakarta Post on April 9, 2002