December 5, 2022
JAKARTA – Navy Chief of Staff Adm. Yudo Margono, the only candidate nominated by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo as the Indonesian Military (TNI) commander, said at his confirmation hearing on Friday that he would strengthen maritime defense to help realize the President’s vision of turning the country as a “global maritime fulcrum”.
“All countries acknowledge Indonesia as a maritime nation. We will increase maritime strength, safeguard all sea lanes and enhance the country’s maritime security,” Yudo told reporters after the hearing.
He emphasized that it was Indonesia’s “obligation to guarantee the safety of marine navigation” against piracy, because the majority of international vessels passed the country’s sea lanes.
The four-star general said his top priorities were to improve the quality of TNI personnel and modernizing the national weaponry and systems (Alutsista) across its three services, so Indonesia could promptly ward off potential conflicts in the face of rising tensions in Indo-Pacific.
“Developing the capability of the TNI’s defense equipment must be based not only on quantity, but also quality, so any threats to Indonesia that are normally dealt with in days can be handled in a matter of hours,” Yudo added.
Improving the TNI’s territorial defense capabilities would also be part of its new focus, he said. This would involve integrating the capabilities of all three services and strengthening the functions of the relatively Joint Regional Defense Command (Kogabwilhan), a unit that was formed in 2019.
Yudo also pledged to develop a more “humane TNI” and to exert every effort to ensure that no soldiers or officers would be caught doing “dishonorable things or acting in an arrogant way” that could harm the people.
“Soldiers must be firm but still humanistic, respected but not feared. […] The TNI must serve as an example of humility and always be there for the country to help overcome the people’s difficulties,” he said.
Asked whether he would continue predecessor Gen. Andika Perkasa’s “softer approach” to address the long-standing separatist elements in Papua, Yudo made assurances that the TNI would deal with conflicts in a more humane way.
He also noted, however, that “not every area will be dealt with in the same operation”.
“We will assess the situation and whether [the softer approach] is still relevant. Because there are areas that are relatively conducive, and there are still areas where resistance is still high,” said Yudo.
All nine factions of House of Representatives Commission I, which oversees defense and foreign affairs, unanimously approved Yudo’s confirmation at the hearing on Friday.
Once the President installs him, Yudo will become the first Navy chief to lead the TNI since Jokowi took office in 2014. Yudo will also be the TNI commander with the shortest term since the fall of the New Order regime, as he has just 11 months to serve in the military’s top post until he reaches mandatory retirement in November 2023.
Yudo is also likely to mobilize the military to help safeguard the construction of the new capital city, Nusantara, in North Penajam Paser regency in East Kalimantan, which is one of Jokowi’s major development projects. He must also maintain TNI unity in the lead-up to the 2024 general election.
“We will remain neutral in the election. We have emphasized this to soldiers, that we are neutral,” he stressed.