Coup Attempt? Not on My Watch, Says Indonesian Army Chief

Army Chief Gen. Pramono Edhie Wibowo announced on Thursday that he will retire in May. (Reuters Photo)

Army Chief Gen. Pramono Edhie Wibowo announced on Thursday that he will retire in May. (Reuters Photo)

The Army’s top officer and a relative of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has denied rumors of a coup d’etat later this month, saying the military would never back such a move.

“God willing, there will be no coup,” Gen. Pramono Edhie Wibowo, who is the brother of the first lady, Ani Yudhoyono, said at the Indonesian Military headquarters in Jakarta on Thursday.

He argued that in order to be successful, the coup would have to have the backing of the military, and insisted that the military would do no such thing.

Pramono, the Army chief of staff, also said that top officers had been told to quash any talk about a coup in their units.

“I have already told [them] to not spread the coup rumors. Let’s all just abide by the law. The military will not launch a coup, I can guarantee that,” he said.

Rumors about the coup stemmed from an intelligence report that suggested it would start with a major demonstration planned for next Monday.

The speculation was further fueled when Yudhoyono held closed talks last week with a group of seven retired but influential generals, although they later said that they only discussed the upcoming presidential election.

Pramono urged an end to the speculation, warning that it could scare investors away if sustained for long enough, thereby hurting the country’s economic growth.

Fadli Zon, the deputy chairman of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), said earlier that the talk of a coup was mere bluster and would not be acted on.

“The rumor should be stopped. It’s unproductive and assumes that the public is stupid,” he said on Wednesday.

“There is no tradition of coups in our country, unlike what we see in other countries in the region. Even if there are those intent on carrying out a coup, who would mobilize it and with what?”

He added that most coups involved active military leaders or at least government officials, and argued that with Yudhoyono loyalists heading all three branches of the military, there was no way that such a coup would take place.

There is also the so-called self-coup, Fadli went on, usually committed by the government with the military’s help in a bid to gain extra constitutional powers, like what happened in Peru in 1992 under Alberto Fujimori.

This, the Gerindra politician went on, was the likelier scenario but still a very remote possibility.

“Given Indonesia’s current condition, a coup from outside [ex-military or government officials] is very unlikely,” Fadli said.

Tubagus Hasanuddin, a retired general and current deputy chairman of the House of Representatives’ Commission I, which oversees defense and foreign affairs, agreed that any coup attempt without the backing of the armed forces would be pointless.

“A coup in Indonesia will only be effective if carried out by the military or by [rogue] military members who are armed,” he said on Wednesday.

“Now, is there any sign that the military will launch a coup attempt? In my opinion, it’s very unlikely.”