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Indonesia's Megawati questions plan for regional military commands: 'are we going to war?'

South China Morning Post - May 24, 2023

Former Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri has slammed the military's plans to set up regional commands, asking if it was preparing for a war.

Megawati, head of the Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which includes President Joko Widodo, also questioned the rationale behind the proposal announced by Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto, who described the initiative as a key security strategy.

"They say that there will be one command in one region. I say, cut it off," Megawati told an event organised by a government-run think tank founded by her father and Indonesia's first president Sukarno. "We're not at war with anybody, first of all. Secondly, are we going to war?"

Army chief General Dudung Abdurachman is seeking to establish one military command in each province, after Prabowo said the build-up was essential to help the force work closely with local governments.

But Megawati said the military should strengthen its role in conflict prevention instead of focusing on organisational restructuring to advance personal interests.

"Each individual branch [of the military] must be really good. They shouldn't pursue their own agenda and shouldn't enrich themselves," she said.

Indonesia has 15 regional military commands across its 38 provinces and some of those units oversee one region while others deal with multiple areas.

Dudung said in February he would present the plan later this year to the military's top commander Yudo Margono, who also liked the idea, The Jakarta Post reported.

Prabowo's spokesperson said the army chief's vision was aligned with the minister's goal of "strengthening the regional commands". However, the latest overhaul was not defined in the defence ministry's strategic plan submitted in 2019.

In the 1980s, the military undertook a major reorganisation to simplify and streamline its command structure.

The new proposal comes at a time when Indonesia is considering cutting some posts, including mid-level generals, to improve the armed forces' efficiency in the face of frequent incursions by Chinese vessels into waters around the country's exclusive economic zone near the Natuna Islands in the disputed South China Sea.

Ansar Ahmad, the governor of the Riau Islands, the province which is home to the Natunas, said in January the island chain should be granted autonomous region status and urged for increased military presence there, citing sovereignty issues.

The government said it needs more funding before considering the request, but it recently relocated a major naval fleet command to Riau, after construction of a submarine base began there last year.

Source: https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/3221674/indonesias-megawati-questions-plan-regional-military-commands-are-we-going-wa