Jakarta – Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) matron Megawati Soekarnoputri, who served as the country's fifth president – and the first female one – said it should be possible for a female general to be appointed commander of the Indonesian Military (TNI).
Speaking at a recent event organized by the Agency for Pancasila Ideology Education (BPIP), the steering committee of which she heads, Megawati expressed hope for women in the country to serve in more positions of strategic importance.
She said Malahayati, one of Indonesia's female national heroes, who served as an admiral in the navy of the Aceh Sultanate – which ruled the area now known as Aceh province – was proof that women could serve in high-ranking positions of the armed forces.
"She was a true admiral, with no frills. She participated in war and won it for Aceh. She even defeated a [Dutch] general. Aren't we proud of Admiral Malahayati? I'm very proud of her," Megawati said as quoted by kompas.com.
The first female admiral in the 16th century Aceh Sultanate Royal Navy, Malahayati formed the Inong Balee, a unit consisting of widows of Aceh soldiers.
In 1558, she led a fleet that killed Dutch explorer Cornelis de Houtman. She was killed in combat while attacking the Portuguese fleet in Teuluk Krueng Raya in 1604.
"Can a female serve as TNI commander? Why not? Is the post of TNI commander off limits for women?" Megawati said, "[Women] have served as president, so it means [women] can serve as [the president's] subordinates."
She added that she wanted more women to join politics and hoped that some of them would run for president in the future.
Megawati, the longest-serving party leader in the country, was the president of Indonesia from July 23, 2001 to Oct. 20, 2004, replacing Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, who had been ousted by the House of Representatives.
She failed to get reelected for a second term after losing the 2004 presidential election to Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. (ami)