Jokowi: Military should stay out of politics

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Indonesian President urges armed forces to be loyal only to state, government

CILEGON: Indonesia's armed forces should stay out of politics and ensure their loyalty is only to the state and the government, President Joko Widodo said yesterday at a parade to mark the 72nd anniversary of the founding of the country's military.

His remarks came amid growing controversy over the actions and what analysts perceive as the political ambitions of Armed Forces Commander General Gatot Nurmantyo, who promotes the notion that Indonesia is beset by "proxy wars" involving foreign states and a renewed communist threat.

"The Indonesian military is a national property that is above all classes, groups (and) is not fragmented by narrow political interests and does not enter into the practical political arena," said Mr Widodo, who sat beside Gen Nurmantyo at the parade in the port city of Cilegon.

"Politics and loyalty to the nation and the state means loyalty to fight for the interests of the people, loyalty to maintain the territorial integrity and unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia, and loyalty to the legitimate government," added Mr Widodo, who is also the commander in chief of the armed forces.

The start of the event, which included troops rappelling from helicopters, was delayed as Mr Widodo's entourage got stuck in traffic, and on a post on his official.

The Indonesian armed forceshad a powerful role in politics and society for three decades under the authoritarian rule of Suharto, the late former general who took power after leading a 1965 purge that killed at least 500,000 alleged communists.

Some political analysts have said Gen Nurmantyo had clear political ambitions and accused him of helping foment a "red scare" aimed at the reformist Widodo, who had previously been falsely accused of being the descendant of communists.

Last month, the general ordered military officers to screen a Suharto-era propaganda film showing the murder of generals and the crushing of an alleged communist coup to "prevent what happened in 1965 from recurring".

He courted more controversy last month when he falsely claimed weapons had been illegally imported "on behalf" of Mr Widodo. - REUTERS

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