Minggu, 16 Desember 2018

Former TNI Commander Gatot Nurmantyo: I`m not a political whore  

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  • Gatot Nurmantyo. Tempo/Jati Mahatmaji

    Gatot Nurmantyo. Tempo/Jati Mahatmaji

    TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - General Gatot Nurmantyo, 58, was almost unrecognizable when he arrived at Tempo's office in Palmerah, Jakarta, last Tuesday. He had swapped his green army uniform with a black suit paired with a white shirt. A perpetual smile adorned the face of former national armed forces chief. 

    Since being replaced by Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto last December, Gatot now has the luxury to organize his daily agenda. If he is not busy with his poultry farm in Purwakarta, West Java, he travels quite a lot to give lectures at various universities, see political leaders or visit clerics. "When I was a soldier, my highest leader was President. But after retirement, well, clerics," said Gatot, who in the past two weeks has been on a 'media safari'. 

    Early this month, Gatot started a new chapter of his life: retirement. "My desire indeed is to retire," he said. But, now, after 36 years of military career, his name has been floating around as one of the contenders in the 2019 presidential race. Along with it, there emerged groups of supporters and volunteers. "If the Republic calls and the people wish, I will be ready no matter what," he said. 

    During the two-and-a-half hour interview, Gatot answered 176 questions from Tempo's team, including Reza Maulana and Angelina Anjar who summarised the interview. The session, filled with bursts of laughter, continued through a Manadonese lunch, a cuisine from the town where he spent part of his childhood. Gatot was evasive when asked about the presidential elections. "I can now beat Pak Jokowi," he quipped. "In making jokes. He may not be able to do it once a week. I can do it every day." 

    Will you contest at the 2019 presidential and vice-presidential election?

    I was taught to fight regardless of time and place. Retirees could also fight. Like civilians, they have the same political rights. Whatever the position is, if the Republic calls and the people wish, I'm ready.

    Also to be President?

    To be anything. Democracy is entirely in the hands of the people. But it is Allah who has the final say. So, anyone who becomes the president is by the will of Allah and we must support him or her.

    Your electability and good image among Muslims voters motivated you to race?

    I am grateful if it is said that many are sympathetic to me. As regards racing (at the presidential-vice presidential election), it's not yet the time for me to speak because I'm still an armed forces member.

    What have you prepared?

    Just like this. (Laughs).

    Are volunteer groups such as Selendang Putih Nusantara part of the preparation?

    I only met Selendang Putih Nusantara in the Mata Najwa talk show mid last month. I just realized during the introduction that they were also present when I gave a speech at the Al-Azhar Mosque two weeks before. I thanked them, but I never gave them any instruction.

    You quoted a poem and it stirred up controversy because it was a political poem criticizing the government, whereas you were still the armed forces chief at the time.

    The verses were disconnected, as if I criticized the government. I said that the most dangerous of all was the theory of hegemony and immigration. People will always look for better livelihoods. That's evolution. For example, Betawi (the original Jakarta populace) people are nowadays sidelined. If that is considered as criticizing the government, so be it. But to me, that is a warning.

    Are you very concerned about inequality?

    It's not inequality that I'm worried about, but social imbalance and poverty that can spark economic and social crises and eventually social unrest. I once had a conversation with the President about the economy. He was taken aback. 'Pak Gatot, the way you talk about the economy is too strong!' I said, 'Sir, as an armed forces chief, I can't protect the government, including yourself, if this country descends into an economic and social crisis, and social chaos. The abrupt government changes in 1965 and 1998 were caused by economic and social crisis, and social unrest. So, let's not allow it to happen again.

    Do you see any serious threats in the economic dominance of the non-pribumi (non-native) group?

    When I gave a lecture at the University of Indonesia, I asked (the audience), if you become the president of a country, not NKRI (Indonesia), and an analysis says the country will go bankrupt in 25 years and the people will suffer due to food, energy and water scarcity, and then you look at Indonesia, what will you do? Some of them suggested buying a media organization to form opinions. Some said to buy the Law by bribing the House of Representative's commissions, and then turn our country into a market. So, domination can be caused by policy-makers or enforcers. We can't look at it from a native -non-native perspective.

    Do you prefer to become President or Vice-President? 

    Allah will determine that. I will be loyal to whoever becomes the president.

    Tempo reported that President Joko Widodo had assigned Andi Widjajanto to meet you to explore possibilities to nominate you as a vice-presidential candidate. How is the discussion progressing?

    I've known Mas Andi since he was a lecturer when I studied at the National Defense Institute. He's also the son of Maj.Gen. Theo Syafei, one of my idols. I last met him during the release of the Sumatera tiger in Tambling, Lampung, last June. But don't ask me about his assignment.

    Were there any talks about the 2019 presidential election?

    None.

    Are you interested in becoming President Jokowi's running mate?

    I'm not a political whore. I only want to sit in one post in line with my competency. For example, when I was the army chief of staff during 2014-2015, President Jokowi asked me twice to head the armed forces. I suggested Pak Agus (Air Marshal Agus Supriatna, Air Force Chief from 2015-2017) instead.

    According to political calculations, you can strengthen Jokowi's position which is considered weak in terms of military and Islamic aspects. 

    I have two political logics. First, in politics, you must be patient. Second, political conditions are fluid with no definite directions. Decisions are taken at the last minutes. If I say I want to become the deputy of this person or that person, it's like I'm talking in my sleep.

    You went to see Prabowo Subianto as soon as you were relieved of your duties as the armed forces commander.

    Correct. I saw Pak Prabowo, Ibu Megawati and Pak Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono when I took the fit and proper test for the armed forces top post in 2015, so it's only proper for me to thank them for their support when my assignment is over. But then rumors emerged alleging that I wanted to buy Pak Prabowo's party. (Laughs)

    Did Prabowo offer you to join Gerindra? 

    He did. But not as a vice-presidential candidate, mind you. I responded that as an active armed forces member, I wasn't allowed to discuss it. I don't have any plan to join any political party yet.

    Were there any discussions about the presidential election?

    Not at all. As soon as I pointed out my status as an active armed forces member, we changed the topic.

    Read the full interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine


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