The Gloomy Stars In Military Headquarters
Hundreds of high and middle-ranking officers of the Indonesian Military (TNI) hold no positions. They have the potential to secure the victory of presidential candidates.
THREE stars remain on the shoulder of Lieut. Gen. Ediwan Prabowo. The best of 1984 graduate of the Military Academy has been a special staff member of the Army Chief of Staff since February 2016. Rather than a prestigious post, a special staffer is only another term for a so-called ‘non-job’ officer. In fact Ediwan will be retiring only in October. “As a soldier I obey the order of my superior,” he said to Tempo last Thursday.
Ediwan is not the only high-ranking Army officer with the ‘non-job’ status. In the TNI Headquarters there is Lieut. Gen. Dodik Wijanarko serving as a special staffer of the TNI Commander. Previously the 1985 Military Academy graduate held the post of TNI Inspector-General. He is yet to complete his remaining two-year term until January 2021. “I go to the office as usual although a high-ranking special staffer has no principal duty and function in the organization,” said Dodik.
Chief of the Army Information Office Brig. Gen. Candra Wijaya confirmed the position of Ediwan and Dodik as high-ranking officers without strategic responsibilities. “In the Army there are around 70 high-ranking officers with the ‘non-job’ status,” said Candra. The generals are housed in a special room in the main building of the Army HQ. According to Candra, some of the high-ranking special staffers are entering retirement.
At the middle level, the number is far larger. Candra estimated the total at about 400 middle-ranking officers—from major to colonel—serving as special staff members. They occupy one special floor in Building B of the Army HQ. They still exclude middle-ranking officers scattered in different regional and district military commands.
Part of the middle-ranking group is waiting for new posts, as indicated by Candra, while the Army continues to empower these special-staff officers, such as by assigning them to monitor the entry of non-commission officers and enlisted men in various regions.
A member of the House of Representatives’ (DPR) Defense Commission from the National Democrat (NasDem) Party, Maj. Gen. (ret) Supiadin Aries Saputra, said the numerous officers having no jobs had lasted for a long time. When he was Udayana and Iskandar Muda regional military commander in 2003-2008, in his regions there were middle and high-ranking officers devoid of posts. “This is a classic issue,” said Supiadin.
According to this 1975 Military Academy alumnus, the condition is due to the far greater number of graduates than that of available positions. Supiadin gave an example that the number of graduates prior to his class was 1,000 on average. Only beginning from his class has the total of graduates decreased by half.
Candra Wijaya corroborated reports of the TNI’s limited number of available jobs. The total of officers is actually increasing. This accumulation keeps growing after the change of the retirement age for officers from 53 to 58 years old as regulated in Law No. 34/2004 on the TNI. Those who should have job promotion are hampered because their seniors have not yet retired.
Two Army officers visited by Tempo in the middle of last month said the number of jobless officers multiplied when Gatot Nurmantyo was commander of the TNI. There were around 30 generals, from one-star to three-star. The reason for the high-ranking officers’ transfer was not clear. Gatot made no response to the request for an interview sent by Tempo.
According to both officers, some Army circles currently believe that the number of high-ranking officers with the ‘non-job’ status will be rising. It is because the Army is led by General Andika Perkasa, who is ahead of many more senior high-ranking officers. Andika, a 1987 Military Academy alumnus, has succeeded General Mulyono, a 1983 graduate. The ‘non-job’ status is expected to mostly involve the seniors of Andika at the Military Academy.
But Candra Wijaya denied the assumption that the rise of Andika would make the career of more senior officers come to a halt. “The designation of positions in the TNI is not based on the class but rather on the capacity and experience,” Candra pointed out.
Several high-ranking and retired officers met by Tempo said the officers still without jobs had the potential to be ‘empowered’ by their retired seniors and included in the campaign teams of presidential and vice-presidential candidates. A retired serviceman who in 2014 was a high-ranking special staffer claimed to have helped secure the victory of one of the competing camps. At the time he was tasked with rallying support in one region.
This one-star retired officer said the task could be executed because as a special-staff officer he was not obligated to stay in the office. He could easily attend meetings with presidential candidate supporters, which used to be held around Menteng, Central Jakarta. The officer with an intelligence background related that many jobless officers also joined the rival camp. He said one of the officers’ reasons to struggle for the victory of their presidential candidates was money. The office of special-staff officers deprives them of functional allowances so that their monthly income is reduced.
Secretary-General of Cakra 19, Eko Wiratmoko, denied the notion that his organization—the majority of its members are retired servicemen supporting the Joko Widodo-Ma’ruf Amin pair—involved active TNI personnel. “The TNI’s neutrality is not negotiable,” said the three-star retired serviceman.
A spokesman for the Prabowo Subianto-Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno pair, Andre Rosiade, also rejected the role of active TNI personnel. “Those affiliated with the campaign team are only retired officers.”
Army Chief Spokesman Candra Wijaya spoke in the same tone. He said no active TNI personnel had become supporters of any one of the candidates.
The many officers without jobs were discussed by Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu and President Joko Widodo on Thursday two weeks ago. There will most likely be additional positions for ‘non-job’ officers. Ryamizard estimated that not all special-staff officers could fill the posts.
On Tuesday last week, Jokowi announced 60 new posts for high-ranking officers. According to TNI Commander Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto, the restructuring is done for instance by raising the class of 21 military district commands from type B, led by colonels, to type A—commanded by brigadier generals. Automatically the ranks of lower officers will follow the promotion. “With the additional 60 posts for one-star to three-star officers, at least 150-200 colonels can be absorbed,” said Hadi.
Lieut. Gen. Ediwan Prabowo and Lieut. Gen. Dodik Wijanarko, in their high-ranking special staff status, welcome the plan. According to Ediwan, the addition of positions can help overcome the problem and at the same time maintain the TNI’s professionalism. “The posts should be given to high-ranking special staffers. It is not meant for rank promotion but instead a chance for us to make further achievements,” added Dodik.