Indonesia president urges military to stay out of politics

Soldiers march during a parade marking the 72nd anniversary of the Indonesian Armed Forces in Cilegon, Banten, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017. Indonesia's president has urged the military to stay out of politics and remain loyal to the government in an apparent rebuke to a series of outlandish statements from the country's top general. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

Indonesia's president has urged the military to stay out of politics and remain loyal to the government, in an apparent rebuke over contentious statements by the country's top general

CILEGON, Indonesia — The Indonesian military should stay out of politics and remain loyal to the government, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said Thursday in an apparent rebuke over contentious statements by the country's top general.

Military chief Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo has stirred controversy in the past month with warnings of a renewed communist threat to Indonesia and a claim that a non-military organization was trying to import thousands of weapons.

In a speech to a parade marking the military's 72nd anniversary, Jokowi said the armed forces are a national institution that should stay above politics and not be fragmented by narrow interests.

The military "should always ensure its political neutrality in the current democratic era," he said.

Indonesia's army retreated from politics after the fall of dictator Suharto in 1998 ushered in democracy, but nearly two decades later a role limited to national defense is not fully accepted among officers or the rank-and-file. It has tried to inch back into civilian areas and resented the police's leading role in counter-terrorism.

Jokowi's predecessor as president was a former general, as was his main rival in the 2014 presidential election, Prabowo Subianto.

Nurmantyo, who local media say might harbor ambitions to run for president in 2019, last month attended an Islamic political party event at which he warned that communists — a boogeyman frequently invoked by Indonesian conservatives — were a renewed threat.

Earlier in the month, the four-star general claimed that a government institution tried to import 5,000 guns "on behalf" of Jokowi. The president's top security minister said the national intelligence service had ordered several hundred rifles from a state-owned weapons company for training purposes.

Thursday's parade in the coastal West Java city of Cilegon comprised nearly 6,000 soldiers and Indonesia's most modern imported weaponry.

After the parade, Nurmantyo told reporters that soldiers are sworn to protect the Indonesian people and obey the president. "Do not doubt our loyalty," he said.

Peaple also read these

China tries to reassure foreign companies over...

Mar 11, 2017

China's industry minister has defended a manufacturing development plan and rejected complaints...

China says rebuilding major western Buddhist...

Mar 14, 2017

China says it is rebuilding a major center of Tibetan Buddhist learning in the country's west,...

China plans panda preserve 3 times size of...

Mar 31, 2017

China plans a preserve for giant pandas that will be three times the size of Yellowstone National...

Asian markets on edge as US strikes Syria amid Xi...

Apr 7, 2017

Asian stock indexes are mixed after the U.S. fired missiles at Syria during President Donald...

Stock markets slide as tech earnings underwhelm

Jul 28, 2017

Asian, European shares slide as concerns spread over Wall Street's tech sell-off

Sign up now!