With the president's installation of new military chiefs of staff, Ryamizard's chance to become TNI commander gets slimmer.
THE swearing-in ceremony was over. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was congratulating the new military chiefs of staff. However, Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu seemed impatient. From the left row in the State Palace hall he moved hurriedly to greet the president and talked only for a moment. After that Yudhoyono continued to greet other invitees.
After the function, Ryamizard revealed that he had reported his planned departure to Aceh. "Carry on the Aceh program," he said, quoting the president's response. The general wanted to continue the program for military participation in rural reconstruction (Tentara Masuk Desa--TMD). "I shouldn't be away from my assignment," he said.
Ryamizard was indeed among those in the spotlight that Friday morning. Before the ceremony, he tried to joke with Indonesian Military (TNI) Commander in Chief, General Endriartono Sutarto, Admiral Bernard Kent Sondakh, and Air Marshal Chappy Hakim. But a short moment later he fell silent. The replacement of military chiefs of staff was announced on Thursday. And the position of Army Chief of Staff that Ryamizard holds was transferred to Lt. Gen. Djoko Santoso.
Navy Chief of Staff Admiral Bernard Kent Sondakh was succeeded by Vice Admiral Slamet Soebijanto, and Air Force Chief Chappy Hakim by Vice Marshal Djoko Suyanto. "They were smoothly proposed without debate," said TNI Chief Spokesman Maj. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin.
Santoso's appointment was not surprising. His name was already "aired" as the army's candidate at the end of last year. He was considered superior in terms of performance and age compared with Army Strategic Reserves Commander Lt. Gen. Hadi Waluyo, Army Inspector General Lt. Gen. Djadja Soeparman, and Army Education and Training Commandant Lt. Gen. Cornel Simbolon.
Santoso was seen as having a bigger chance. "He was close enough to the president," said Center for Strategic & International Studies political observer Kusnanto Anggoro. The 1975 graduate of the Army Academy was once deputy socio-political assistant when Yudhoyono served as the TNI's socio-political chief of staff and territorial chief of staff.
The rise of Slamet Soebijanto was seen as proper, too. Born in Mojokerto, East Java, he is known as a career officer with profound experience at sea. After commanding warships several times, he last served as the Eastern Fleet commander before being named Deputy Governor of the National Defense Institute. Soebijanto and Yudhoyono were contemporaries at the military academy in 1973. Though in different departments, they trained together in Magelang in the first year.
Djoko Suyanto has another story. The public was, until then, only informed of two three-star officers recommended by the Air Force to the president: Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff Vice Marshal Herman Prayitno and TNI General Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Wartoyo. But since the two were about to retire, this two-star Air Force operations assistant got a rank promotion an hour before the succession announcement. The most senior chief marshal of the Air Force was also Yudhoyono's peer at the military academy in 1973.
Though the change of military chiefs of staff is no longer a puzzle, there remains the question around TNI commander candidates. Moreover, along with the names for new chiefs of staff, on February 7, Sutarto again forwarded a proposal on the replacement of the TNI commander to President Yudhoyono. "It contained the same thing as that already submitted three times to then President Megawati Sukarnoputri," said Sjafrie.
The succession of the TNI commander is in fact regulated in Article 13 paragraph 4 of Law No. 34/2004 on the TNI. Pursuant to the rule, candidates for the post of TNI commander are senior officers still in office or former chiefs of staff. So, besides the new military chiefs of staff, Ryamizard still has the chance to occupy the seat of "Cilangkap 1," TNI Headquarters. Chappy and Kent have no chance because they have had their terms extended. "Pak Ryamizard has not entered the age of retirement yet," said Sutarto.
Last year, news was circulating that Kent would replace Sutarto. But after Sutarto had proposed the substitution of the TNI commander three times, President Megawati on the other hand recommended Ryamizard to the House of Representatives (DPR). Its debate in the DPR was delayed because the letter was submitted just before Mega was replaced.
Two months ago, Yudhoyono claimed to have no problem with Ryamizard in connection with the withdrawal of Mega's letter to the DPR. But the Palace scenario apparently changed. "Tarto (Sutarto--Ed.) will be retained for several months and then Djoko Santoso will replace him," said a high-ranking officer. If that is the case, Ryamizard will only have to wait for his retirement on April 21.
Cabinet Secretary Sudi Silalahi also implicitly revealed when asked about the names for the would-be TNI commander to be submitted by the president to the DPR. "The obvious thing is that before any succession, Gen. Endriartono Sutarto remains the TNI commander," he said. The candidates to be presented to the DPR, according to him, will be based on the performance of the three new chiefs of staff.
House Defense Commission member Djoko Susilo suggested that Yudhoyono continue to propose Ryamizard Ryacudu as the TNI commander candidate for one year's term. This is at the same time meant to prove that there is actually no problem between them. "If Ryamizard is not promoted, it means Yudhoyono is beginning to swing the political pendulum of the TNI," he said.
Former TNI territorial chief of staff Lt. Gen. (ret) Agus Widjojo also recommended that the government review the scenario of promoting Santoso to the office of TNI commander. He even proposed that Yudhoyono choose a candidate from the other chiefs of staff. Santoso is still young and has a lot more time to serve as TNI commander. "It would be gracious for him (Yudhoyono--Ed.) to give the air force its turn for the seat of TNI commander," he added.
So far, no Air Force leaders have ever assumed the office of TNI chief. But military observer M.T. Arifin was not sure if Yudhoyono would alter the scenario he had drawn up for a long time. "Yudhoyono certainly wants the safest position for him by choosing Djoko Santoso," he said.
Nonetheless, a former member of Yudhoyono's campaign team wondered if the president would be bold enough to move against the stream by promoting Santoso as TNI commander. It is because apart from support from the DPR, core officers and senior of the TNI's hardliners, Ryamizard, is also backed by Vice President Jusuf Kalla. "He is not the type of a non-conformist and will not dare to prop up Santoso alone," he said. He suspected that some circles were prompting Yudhoyono to make the decision.
Ryamizard himself in fact claimed to be happy about Santoso's appointment to succeed him. He sincerely greeted Santoso and praised him as a good cadre. But he seemed aware that the road to the TNI chief's seat is getting steeper. "If the government wants it that way, it's OK," he said. "If I'm named TNI commander, thank God, or else it's all right. I leave it to God."
Hanibal W.Y. Wijayanta, Bernarda Rurit, Abdul Manan
TEMPO, FEBRUARY 28, 2005-025/P. 22 Heading National