Indonesia president urges military to stay out of politics

In this photo taken with slow shutter speed, members of the Indonesian Army Special Forces Commandos march during a parade marking the 72nd anniversary of the Indonesian Armed Forces in Cilegon, Banten, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017. Indonesia's president has urged the military to stay out of politics and remain loyal to the government in an apparent rebuke to a series of outlandish statements from the country's top general. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, center, inspect the troops during a parade marking the 72nd anniversary of the Indonesian Armed Forces in Cilegon, Banten, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017. Widodo has urged the military to stay out of politics and remain loyal to the government in an apparent rebuke to a series of outlandish statements from the country's top general. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)
Soldiers march during a parade marking the 72nd anniversary of the Indonesian Armed Forces in Cilegon, Banten, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017. Indonesia's president has urged the military to stay out of politics and remain loyal to the government in an apparent rebuke to a series of outlandish statements from the country's top general. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)
Indonesian students ride on military armored vehicles during a parade marking the 72nd anniversary of the Indonesian Armed Forces in Cilegon, Banten, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017. Indonesia's president has urged the military to stay out of politics and remain loyal to the government in an apparent rebuke to a series of outlandish statements from the country's top general. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, center, inspect the troops during a parade marking the 72nd anniversary of the Indonesian Armed Forces in Cilegon, Banten, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017. Widodo has urged the military to stay out of politics and remain loyal to the government in an apparent rebuke to a series of outlandish statements from the country's top general. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)
An Indonesian Navy warship fires rockets during a parade marking the 72nd anniversary of the Indonesian Armed Forces in Cilegon, Banten, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017. Indonesia's president has urged the military to stay out of politics and remain loyal to the government in an apparent rebuke to a series of outlandish statements from the country's top general. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

CILEGON, Indonesia — The Indonesian military should stay out of politics and remain loyal to the government, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said Thursday in an apparent rebuke over contentious statements by the country's top general.

Military chief Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo has stirred controversy in the past month with warnings of a renewed communist threat to Indonesia and a claim that a non-military organization was trying to import thousands of weapons.

In a speech to a parade marking the military's 72nd anniversary, Jokowi said the armed forces are a national institution that should stay above politics and not be fragmented by narrow interests.

The military "should always ensure its political neutrality in the current democratic era," he said.

Indonesia's army retreated from politics after the fall of dictator Suharto in 1998 ushered in democracy, but nearly two decades later a role limited to national defense is not fully accepted among officers or the rank-and-file. It has tried to inch back into civilian areas and resented the police's leading role in counter-terrorism.

Jokowi's predecessor as president was a former general, as was his main rival in the 2014 presidential election, Prabowo Subianto.

Nurmantyo, who local media say might harbor ambitions to run for president in 2019, last month attended an Islamic political party event at which he warned that communists — a boogeyman frequently invoked by Indonesian conservatives — were a renewed threat.

Earlier in the month, the four-star general claimed that a government institution tried to import 5,000 guns "on behalf" of Jokowi. The president's top security minister said the national intelligence service had ordered several hundred rifles from a state-owned weapons company for training purposes.

Thursday's parade in the coastal West Java city of Cilegon comprised nearly 6,000 soldiers and Indonesia's most modern imported weaponry.

After the parade, Nurmantyo told reporters that soldiers are sworn to protect the Indonesian people and obey the president. "Do not doubt our loyalty," he said.

People also read these

Tens of thousands stranded as Bali volcano closes...

Nov 27, 2017

Indonesian authorities ordered a mass evacuation of people from an expanded danger zone around an...

The Latest: Indonesia says 100,000 should leave...

Nov 27, 2017

Indonesia's Disaster Mitigation Agency says as many as 100,000 villagers need to leave the expanded...

American man escapes from prison on Indonesia's...

Dec 11, 2017

Indonesian police are hunting for an American citizen who escaped from an overcrowded and...

Diphtheria deaths in Indonesia spark immunization...

Dec 11, 2017

Indonesia has begun a campaign to immunize 8 million children and teenagers against diphtheria...

Skulls in the mail: Indonesia foils artifact...

Feb 9, 2018

Customs officials on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali say they've foiled an attempt to mail 24...