President Jokowi taps Gatot Nurmantyo for TNI chief

President Joko Widodo has proposed army chief General Gatot Nurmantyo to be the next commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI), after weeks of media speculation.

House of Representatives deputy speaker Fahri Hamzah confirmed on Tuesday that Jokowi had written to the House seeking approval for Gatot to be TNI chief to replace General Moeldoko, who is due to retire in August.

“We have received the letter. Gatot Nurmantyo is the proposed candidate,” Fahri was quoted by media reports as saying.

Just like with the national police, the appointment of TNI chief needs approval from the House of Representatives through a vetting process known as “fit and proper test”.

Jokowi’s decision is a departure from a consensus started after the 1998 reform movement in which TNI leadership was rotated between the Army, Navy and Air Force.

The rotation system is intended to create a balance and prevent one of the three factions from being too dominant as what happened during the 32-year rule of the late president Soeharto, when the TNI chief was traditionally from the army.

Moeldoko was the Army chief of staff when he took over from Admiral Agus Suhartono in 2013. Under the rotation system, Air Force chief of staff Air Chief Marshall Agus Supriatna is the next in line to be the TNI chief.

The speculation on Jokowi’s choice emerged after Cabinet Secretary Andi Widjajanto said that president did not have to follow the tradition, as it is not regulated by law.

Former Air Force chief retired Air Chief Marshall, Chappy Hakim expressed his disappointment at Jokowi’s reported decision, saying it showed his lack of appreciation of the Air Force and could create disharmony among the three fractions.

The president, as the supreme commander of the armed forces, has the prerogative to pick TNI chief, and Andi said Jokowi would choose someone who is suited to the needs and challenges faced by the current government.

Jokowi has pledged to pay more attention to Indonesia’s neglected sea and air potential, but analysts say his government needs support from the army.

He has enlisted thousands of soldiers to help farmers achieve his goal of self-sufficiency in rice production for the next two years.

The choice of Gatot Nurmantyo is also seen more logical by military observers, considering he has three years before he reaches the retirement age of 58.

Air Force chief Agus Supriatna is 56.

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