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Officers told not to attend political meetings

Jakarta Post - March 7, 2001

Cipatat, Bandung – Army Chief of Staff Gen. Endriartono Sutarto warned on Tuesday that no active Army officers are allowed to attend meetings aimed at discussing any specific political agenda.

"If Army officers are invited to join meetings discussing political issues, there's a strong possibility that we would not attend such events as they are already beyond our duties as professional soldiers," Endriartono said here as quoted by Antara.

He was responding to questions about whether the TNI would attend if its officers were invited to the next meeting, following the meeting of leaders of six political parties at the Al Azhar Mosque last Friday. That meeting concluded by expressing support for Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri. He said, however, that the Army might consider responding to an invitation if the meeting were just "a consultative one".

"But, if the meeting is about to set a certain political agenda, it's forbidden for Indonesian Military [TNI] members to join it," Endriartono said after opening the training program for the Army's artillery, cavalry and infantry officers, and military engineers.

Commenting on the editorial of The Washington Post, published on March 2, 2001, which hinted that the United States government might ask the Indonesian army to maintain "the nation's stability" if the battle over President Abdurrahman Wahid's impeachment turns violent, Endriartono said the Indonesian army would only be involved in efforts to help the nation settle security matters.

"The Indonesian army's involvement is not aimed at bringing the TNI back into the political arena. Therefore, during this transitional period, the TNI expects clear regulations to back us in handling security matters at home," he said.

He denied having had a meeting, along with Chief of the Army Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad) Lt. Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu, and Speaker of the People's Consultative Assembly Amien Rais in Cilodong, a suburb south of Jakarta, last Friday night. "The meeting never took place," Endriartono said.

Rumors were rife that Endriartono and Ryamizard met Amien on March 2, telling the Assembly Speaker that the Army could no longer support President Abdurrahman's administration.

Separately in Jakarta, Ryamizard said the Indonesian people should settle their internal problems by themselves without allowing in any foreign intervention.

"As a sovereign country, we must solve our own problems and not let others interfere," Ryamizard told reporters while observing the final rehearsal of Kostrad's 40th anniversary celebration at the command's Airborne brigade headquarters in Cijantung, East Jakarta.

"All elements of the nation, both military and civilian, should join hands in maintaining security. The TNI alone cannot perform this duty," he said.

Ryamizard declined to comment when asked about the possibility of military's involvement in maintaining the 'nation's stability' due to the weakness of civilian politicians in ruling the country.

"We [TNI members] do not have political interests, and this includes the top political posts," he said. He also denied meeting with Amien Rais on March 2.