Armando Siahaan & Markus Junianto Sihaloho
Jakarta. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has named Navy chief of staff Vice Adm. Agus Suhartono as his choice to replace outgoing Armed Forces Chief Gen. Djoko Santoso, the House of Representatives has revealed.
“We’ve received a letter from the president, signed on September 3, in which he names one candidate for the post of TNI chief, which is Agus Suhartono, the Navy chief,” House Deputy Speaker Priyo Budi Santoso, from the Golkar Party, said on Monday.
He added that the letter would be formally introduced to the House at a plenary meeting on Sept. 21. Although the House is obliged to approve or reject the president’s pick within 20 days of the letter being signed, Priyo said the final decision would be postponed in light of the Idul Fitri holiday this week.
He said that after the plenary meeting, the issue would be brought before the House Consultative Body and discussed with the leaders of all nine parties in the legislature, before finally going to Commission I, which oversees defense affairs.
“I believe Agus is a competent figure,” Priyo said. “I hope the approval doesn’t have to go to a vote.”
Agus’s nomination was widely expected, given that the post of Armed Forces (TNI) chief is rotated among the sitting heads of the Army, Navy and Air Force, with the Navy chief next in line.
His expected appointment early next month is due to coincide with a slew of other high-profile replacements, including the National Police chief and attorney general.
Djoko, the current Armed Forces chief, is due to retire on Wednesday.
Yorrys Raweyai, a Golkar member from the defense commission, said the president had made the right choice and that Agus’s nomination would force the government to pay more attention to maritime affairs.
He added that under Agus’s watch, the current development focus on the Army would not be as intense.
“If we remain Army-oriented, then our maritime affairs will always be hampered,” Yorrys said. “I hope that Agus’s appointment signals a stronger maritime presence.”
The nation’s naval defenses have been the subject of heated debate recently, sparked by the arrest of three Indonesian maritime officials by Malaysian authorities reportedly in Indonesian waters and in retaliation for the earlier arrest of seven Malaysian fishermen who had been suspected of poaching.
Meanwhile, Tjahjo Kumolo, chairman for the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) in the House, on Monday also voiced his support for Agus.
“We consider that all of the current chiefs of staff are qualified to become the new military chief. They are all competent enough to lead the military,” he said, although he added that Agus “deserves the post more than others.”