TNI chief Gen. Moeldoko says Indonesia to build military base on South China Sea shore, bordering Malaysia
Surabaya, East Java. Thanks to its military modernization drive, Indonesia will be an Asian Tiger within the next ten years, says President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Speaking in Surabaya on Monday and Tuesday as part of festivities to celebrate the 69th anniversary of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI), the president praised the progress made so far in terms of boosting the nation’s security.
On Monday, Yudhoyono told 23,000 military personnel gathered at the Eastern Fleet Command that more than Rp 100 trillion ($8 billion) had been spent during his presidency to modernize the military’s weapons systems and other equipment: “I am confident that we will become an Asian Tiger.”
The president will be replaced by Joko Widodo on Oct. 20, after ten years at the helm of the world’s third-largest democracy.
‘Papua is safe’
Yudhoyono said that Indonesia today was secure, with provinces that experienced conflict in the past gradually becoming safer.
“Aceh is safe, Papua is safe, there is no communal conflict,” he said. “And apart from that, military operations other than war, like disaster mitigation, take place 24 hours a day.”
Resource-rich Papua has for decades been the scene of a low-intensity conflict between separatist groups and government forces. Shootings still occur regularly despite a significant Army presence.
On Tuesday, before the start of the large military parade that formed the highlight of the celebrations, Yudhoyono expressed his pride in the fact that Indonesia had acquired a number state-of-the-art weapons systems.
“The Army now has main battle tanks,” the president said. “On the seas around the Archipelago we see corvettes, frigates, tanks and amphibious armed personnel carriers. In the skies we have already seen, and will soon see more, new systems like training planes, Hercules transport planes, Sukhoi [fighter jets], T-50 [light fighters] and 24 F-16 [fighter jets].”
South China Sea
Gen. Moeldoko, the chief of the TNI, said on Monday that Indonesia’s military buildup was related to the ongoing tension in the South China Sea, where several of the country’s neighbors are involved in territorial disputes with China, which claims almost the entire area.
Moeldoko earlier this year accused China of also eying Indonesian waters around the Natuna islands, but Indonesia has also been involved in territorial disputes with Malaysia in the same area.
“This is our consideration, earlier there was a show of force at Tanjung Datu [on the northern of West Kalimantan province, on the border with Malaysia] and I have asked the House of Representatives, and they’ve already approved, a budget of Rp 800 billion to build an Army, Navy and Air Force base to prevent any problems from resurfacing there.”
The TNI chief also urged the government to boost wages of military personnel, which have been going up by as much as 6 percent in recent years. “However, this is not enough,” Moeldoko said. “The average income of my soldiers is Rp 3.4 million. That’s not much at all.” JG