Military commander with a mission at home and abroad

Military commander with a mission at home and abroad
General Moeldoko has been mentioned as a possible vice-presidential running mate to Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo for the July 9 presidential polls in Indonesia.

Soon after he topped his graduating cohort at the military academy in 1981, then First-Lieutenant Moeldoko put pen to paper and charted out a career timeline, setting targets by which he hoped to hit various ranks. At the end, he wrote: commander-in-chief.

Recounting this anecdote before his swearing in as commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) last August, General Moeldoko, 56, told Tempo magazine: "All soldiers always dream of becoming a commander."

He may now be setting his sights higher. In recent months, he has been mentioned as a possible vice-presidential running mate to Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo for the July 9 presidential polls.

While that possibility remains uncertain, the four-star general was last week thrust into the spotlight for a reported apology during an interview with Singapore broadcaster Channel NewsAsia, aired last Tuesday, over Indonesia's naming of a new frigate, the KRI Usman Harun, after two Indonesian marines behind a 1965 bombing in Singapore at the height of Konfrontasi.

Indonesia's decision to name a ship after marines Osman Mohamed Ali and Harun Said, who were executed in Singapore in 1968 and declared national heroes by Indonesia, strained bilateral military ties when the news was reported in February.

Amid a backlash from some MPs and observers over the apology, Gen Moeldoko told reporters last Thursday his comments were misunderstood, saying: "There was no apology. What I meant was: 'Sorry, the naming of the Usman Harun is our final decision'."

Nevertheless, Gen Moeldoko has also indicated he is keen to get bilateral military ties back on track as he strives to navigate the occasionally conflicting demands of domestic pressures and regional responsibilities.

Going by his comments over the eight months he has been in the job, the commander of 476,000 men and women in uniform spread out across the 5,300km-wide archipelago has also had to balance the TNI's political neutrality with a keen eye on the wider political situation as well.

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