New spy chief Sutiyoso plans to recruit thousands of new agents

The National Intelligence Agency (BIN) plans to recruit thousands of new agents to help boost national security, its new chief Sutiyoso said.

“Currently, we have only about 1,975 personnel, while we need more than 5,000 personnel,” Sutiyoso, 70, said after the House of Representatives approved his nomination.

“Therefore, we will recruit more agents with various skills and from different backgrounds,” said the former general, who had a patchy record as Jakarta governor from 1997-2007.

Sutiyoso said more personnel were needed to anticipate security threats in the run-up to simultaneous local elections, scheduled for October this year.

The plan is likely to raise eyebrows amid concerns among democracy activists that the administration of President Joko Widodo is increasingly resorting to security-oriented policies.

Jokowi has sought the help of the armed forces to do civilian tasks, raising concerns about the prospect of a greater role for the military in civilian matters.

All 10 parties at House’s Commission I overseeing intelligence, defense and foreign affairs approved the nomination of Sutiyoso, who is replacing Marciano Norman,  after a four-hour vetting process called the “Fit and Proper” test.

Sutiyoso’s nomination has drawn some criticism, partly because of his old age and the fact that he was, until recently, the chairman of the Unity and Justice Party.

Sutiyoso supported Jokowi in last year’s election, although his party did not win a parliamentary seat.

Ironically, Sutiyoso also received support from Jokowi’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), whose Jakarta headquarters were attacked allegedly by troops in 1996, when Sutiyoso was the commander of the capital’s garrison.

Five people were killed and scores were injured, according the National Commission on Human Rights, but no one but a labour activist has been sent to jail in connection with the attack.

The appointment of Sutiyoso has sparked speculation that Jokowi is only returning favour. Jokowi has earlier been criticised for appointing loyalists to some key posts.

Much of Sutiyoso’s military career was spent in the Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus), including a few years’ stint as assistant for intelligence to the Kopassus chief.

He was involved in a number of military operations in East Timor, which voted to separate from Indonesia in 1999, and Aceh province.

New TNI chief

In the same week, the House also confirmed the nomination of Army Chief of Staff, General Gatot Nurmantyo, as the commander of the Indonesian Military (TNI).

Before the confirmation hearing, Gatot said that he would focus on protecting the country’s maritime interests.

“There is no other alternative but a push to simultaneously build up the Air Force as well as the Navy so that we will be powerful at sea and in the air to control and safeguard the archipelago,” Gatot was quoted as saying by local media.

General Gatot also promised to modernize the military’s aging weapons systems and equipment in the wake of the crash of a Hercules C-130 plane in Medan, which killed at least 142 people.

Gatot said he would make sure that weapons and equipment purchased would be brand new and not refurbished items or second-hand gifts from foreign governments.

Jokowi’s decision to propose Gatot went against the recommendation of his own party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which urged the President to maintain the tradition of rotating the post between the army, navy and air force.

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