10 Jan 2017

Indonesia's Widodo reproaches military chief over Australia suspension

10:17 am on 10 January 2017

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo has reportedly warned his military chief about his behaviour after he announced a suspension of military ties with Australia over material involving West Papua province.

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (L) arrives at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Vientiane on September 7, 2016.

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo's warning to General Gatot Nurmantyo highlights alarm the General is out of control. Photo: AFP

Government sources said a meeting between the two took place last week and came amid concerns the commander was "out of control" after he unilaterally suspended defence co-operation with Australia.

Mr Widodo's intervention highlights alarm about General Gatot Nurmantyo, who promotes the notion that Indonesia is besieged by "proxy wars", in which foreign states seek to undermine the nation by manipulating non-state actors.

Members of Indonesian special forces group Kopassus take part in a simulated hostage bus hijacking drill in their headquarters complex in Kandang Menjangan, Sukoharjo, Central Java in September 2013.

Members of Indonesian special forces group Kopassus take part in a simulated hostage bus hijacking drill in Central Java in September 2013. Kopassus trains with the Special Air Service at the unit's Campbell Barracks in Perth. Photo: AFP / EyePress

A senior government official said Mr Widodo, the first president from outside the military and political establishment, needed to move quickly to demonstrate his authority as the country's commander-in-chief.

The official said the feeling is General Nurmantyo is a little out of control.

The general declared a rupture in military ties after an Indonesian officer found "offensive" teaching material while on a training course in Australia late last year.

The material suggested that Papua province should be independent and mocked the nation's state ideology, according to Nurmantyo.

One of the officials told Reuters the government was caught off guard by the announcement of the suspension of military ties.

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