Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

Posted by on Oct 17, 2018 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

Born in Pacitan, East Java in September 1949, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono celebrated his fifty-fifth birthday a few weeks before his inauguration as Indonesia’s sixth President in October 2004. He was the only child of an army noncommissioned officer in the Brawijaya territorial organization, Raden Soekotjo, and maternal grandson to the founder of the local Tremas Pesantren (a Nahdlatul Ulama boarding school). Known as “Sus” or Bambang to friends, he was cadet corps commander and top graduate from his 1973 Military Academy class. Yudhoyono was engaged to and later married Military Academy Governor Major General Sarwo Edhie Wibowo’s well-educated and charming daughter, Kristiani Herawati (Ani). Fatefully thrown into the national spotlight during the 1965-1966 crisis, as Army Commando Regiment (RPKAD) Commander Sarwo Edhie had led the massacre of communists on Java and Bali, laying a bloody foundation for Soeharto’s New Order. Marriage into the legendary (some would say notorious) general’s family reinforced the young officer’s Javanese sense of destiny.

Yudhoyono reportedly wanted to follow his father-in-law into the red berets. Since no officers from the 1973 class were commissioned into the Special Forces, he opted for the green berets and served exclusively in Army Strategic Reserve (Kostrad) units until posted to Army Headquarters in 1981. Recognized as bright and capable, his early career suffered, ironically, due to his status as Sarwo Edhie’s son-in-law. Soeharto insiders Ali Moertopo, Yoga Sugomo and Benny Moerdani held a grudge against the popular and charismatic red beret. As Armed Forces Commander, Moerdani allegedly had Yudhoyono sidelined to unimportant positions. Sarwo Edhie died in November 1989. With patronage from Generals Edi Sudrajat and Feisal Tanjung, Yudhoyono’s career took off after Benny Moerdani departed the scene in the early-1990s. The two red beret generals were sympathetic to Sarwo Edhie’s plight and recognized his son-in-law had been treated unfairly.

After graduating from the Army Staff and Command School (Seskoad) in 1989, once more at the top of his class, Yudhoyono was selected to attend the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. He worked as a speech writer for Army Chief Edi Sudrajat and briefly as his staff coordinator when Sudrajat became Armed Forces Commander in February 1993. Sudrajat intervened to select Yudhoyono as commander of the Jakarta-based Kostrad 17th Infantry Brigade, the Army’s most prestigious brigade-level unit, succeeding presidential son-in-law Prabowo Subianto. Yudhoyono advanced rapidly through a series of key postings. He was operations assistant in the Jakarta Command in 1994-1995 and spent a few months as Yogyakarta Resort Commander, where he established contacts with academics, student activists, journalists and civil society groups.

Yudhoyono earned his first star during 1994 during a one-year posting as Chief Military Observer with UN Forces in Bosnia. He was chief of staff in the Jakarta Command during the July 1996 assault on the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) headquarters, South Sumatra Sriwijaya Regional Commander from August 1996 to August 1997, Armed Forces Assistant for Social and Political Affairs from August 1997 to March 1998, and then Chief of Staff for Social and Political Affairs (Kasospol) – later re-designated Chief of Staff for Territorial Affairs (Kaster) – from March 1998 to November 1999, throughout the period of repressive operations in East Timor and the Maluku civil war. He went from lieutenant colonel to lieutenant general in five years.

Yudhoyono participated in military training in the U.S. on three occasions: an English language course at the Defense Language Institute, U.S. Army Airborne and Ranger training at Fort Benning in 1975-1976; the Infantry Officer Advanced Course at Fort Benning, Jungle Warfare School in Panama and on-the-job training with 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg in 1982-1983; and Command and General Staff College in 1990-1991. The bright, friendly, polite officer made friends easily and stayed in contact with classmates years after returning to Indonesia. In the mid-1980s, he participated in anti-tank weapons training in Belgium and West Germany, and attended a battalion commander course with the Royal Malaysian Army.

Fellow 1973 academy classmate Agus Wirahadikusumah (former Vice President General Umar Wirahadikusumah’s nephew), Agus Widjojo (a 1971 academy graduate and 1965 martyr Major General Sutoyo Siswomihardjo’s son) and Yudhoyono were sometimes called “The Three Musketeers” – rising stars and leading army thinkers committed to a “New Paradigm” emphasizing greater military professionalism and less political involvement. While serving as a lecturer at Seskoad, Yudhoyono and Wirahadikusumah published a pro-reform book entitled “The Challenges of Development.” [1] Later, after Soeharto resigned, Wirahadikusumah had a falling out with Yudhoyono and Agus Widjojo over the path of military reforms. The Sundanese Wirahadikusumah was outspoken, openly challenging ABRI Commander General Wiranto – a taboo within the intensely hierarchical military organization, not to mention polite Javanese society. The more conventional Yudhoyono and Widjojo chose to work within the system to promote gradual change.

Yudhoyono, Widjojo and many officers were exasperated because President Abdurrahman Wahid chose to favor Agus Wirahadikusumah. The story ended tragically. Wirahadikusumah was sacked from Kostrad in August 2000 after Wahid lost political support. Ostracized and under huge stress, Wirahadikusumah suffered a heart attack and died in July 2001, just one week after Megawati Sukarnoputri was installed as president. Yudhoyono and Agus Widjojo remained friends, military and political allies. Both aspired to Army Chief and both were bitterly disappointed at being passed over for that post. When Yudhoyono was elected president, Agus Widjojo was again unhappy because he did not receive a cabinet post or government appointment, apparently due to opposition from TNI Commander General Endriartono Sutarto and other “security first” generals. [2]

Yudhoyono’s record was relatively unblemished by human rights problems. As a young officer, he rotated through East Timor twice in the late-1970s and commanded the organic Timorese Battalion 744 for a short period in 1986. According to his official biography, Yudhoyono ended the practice of summarily executing captured East Timor National Liberation Forces (Falintil) rebels. As chief of staff in the Jakarta Command, he claimed to be only peripherally involved in the July 1996 assault on PDI headquarters, although others dispute that assertion, suggesting he was more directly involved in the operation but “just following orders” from his boss, Major General Sutiyoso.

As Chief of Staff for Social-Political Affairs and principal author of the New Paradigm, Yudhoyono was frequently in the spotlight during the immediate post-Soeharto period, acting as General Wiranto’s de facto spokesman during 1998 and early-1999. A reluctant loyalist, he privately objected to the militia-based pro-integration campaign in East Timor but, only when pressed, halfheartedly defended TNI policies in East Timor and Maluku, in the process antagonizing both Wiranto and Agus Wirahadikusumah. Yudhoyono bit his tongue at least partly because he aspired to become army chief. He was heartbroken when pushed into the Wahid Cabinet as Mines and Energy Minister. Yudhoyono was forced to retire from the Army although President Wahid later granted him an honorary fourth star as a consolation.

Some suggest Wiranto set Yudhoyono up for failure in the notoriously corrupt Mines and Energy Ministry, but the hard-working general succeeded in an unfamiliar job and advanced to become Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs under Presidents Wahid and Megawati. He was caught between Wahid and military leaders on several issues, including Aceh and Maluku – where TNI wanted martial law and a “legal umbrella” to take repressive measures – but particularly with respect to Wahid’s meddling in internal military affairs. Fellow generals did not feel Yudhoyono was forceful enough in pushing their agenda. That dynamic created tensions between Yudhoyono and Generals Wiranto, Sutarto and Ryamizard. Ironically, Wiranto helped launch his subordinate’s political career. The two generals were rivals in 2004 election campaign, their superior-subordinate relationship finally ended.

Bambang Yudhoyono was a secular-nationalist and marginal Muslim with a Javanese abangan background. Like others, during the 1990s he adopted the trappings of Islam, mostly for appearance. He projected himself as a devout Muslim and, after leaving the Army, sought support from the modernist community. Perhaps not apparent on the surface, the cosmopolitan and westernized Yudhoyono was influenced by Javanese mystical beliefs. Former TNI Commander General Endriartono Sutarto related a story from the late-1970s, when he and Yudhoyono were serving as Kostrad platoon leaders in East Timor. Their platoons were based on adjacent hilltops. After observing insurgent activity in the area, Sutarto proposed a joint operation against the rebels. Sutarto was surprised when Yudhoyono answered, “It is not a good day” according to the Javanese calendar (primbon). [3] It is not a new story. Such superstitious beliefs have influenced military operations many times throughout the Army’s history. [4]

General Sutarto compared Yudhoyono to Sukarno, Soeharto, Abdurrahman Wahid and Megawati Sukarnoputri, all national leaders who maintained an irrational belief in Javanese mysticism. Yudhoyono’s superstitious beliefs were fueled by his wife, Ibu Ani, and mother-in-law, Ibu Sarwo Edhie (Sunarti Sri Hadiyah), both deeply immersed in kejawen mystical practices. Just as many thought Ibu Tien was the source for Soeharto’s pulung (divine calling), some felt Ibu Ani was the channel that passed Sarwo Edhie’s pulung to Bambang Yudhoyono. Madam Sunarti and family members believed he had inherited Sarwo Edhie’s mantle and had claimed his unfulfilled destiny. Sunarti pressed the scholarly, naturally cautious Yudhoyono to take action, most notably convincing him to resign from Megawati’s cabinet to run against her in the 2004 elections. [5] With Sunarti’s encouragement, during the campaign, Yudhoyono sought guidance from a trusted dukun (shaman) to commune with the spirits on sacred Mount Lawu in East Java. [6]

Known in the media as “the thinking general,” Yudhoyono was admired for his intellect but never especially popular. After he moved into the Wahid cabinet in late-1999, some mockingly referred to him as “the language teacher” because of his exceedingly refined speech-making, always in proper Bahasa Indonesia. Like his father-in-law, Sarwo Edhie, another enthusiastic kejawen adherent, Yudhoyono went to great lengths to minimize his “Javanese-ness,” ostensibly to avoid alienating ethnic minorities. Both Sarwo Edhie and Yudhoyono consciously avoided Javanese terms and even spoke Indonesian at home rather than their native Javanese. [7]

Actually, Bambang Yudhoyono was more like Abdul Haris Nasution than the charismatic, action-oriented Sarwo Edhie. Like Nasution, Yudhoyono was a cautious micro-manager. He was quiet, polite, a good listener and avid reader, analytical, comfortable speaking English, and exhibited a fondness for PowerPoint charts, reinforced by his year at the U.S. Army staff college. He was accomplished and principled but at times indecisive and lacked the charisma to inspire loyalty among subordinates. Unlike either Soeharto or Sarwo Edhie, he did not have the ruthless character traits necessary to employ the repressive security approach.

Unlike most officers, Yudhoyono had a global perspective. He displayed no sympathy for militant Islam and recognized domestic terrorism to be a serious threat. From the start, he favored friendly relations with the West, but moved cautiously since, by then, anti-American sentiments were the highest since the Sukarno era. Yudhoyono had a Javanese tendency to try to make everyone happy and, as a result, sometimes took inconsistent positions. He disliked confrontational situations. Unlike Megawati, Yudhoyono was a good communicator, even though he tended to be a bit stiff and formal. He used the mass media to socialize policies. Longtime associates complained Yudhoyono had forgotten them when he entered the Palace. They found it especially irksome the new President discontinued the practice of inviting retired flag officers of three stars and above to attend the August 17 Independence Day ceremony at the Palace. [8]

Bambang Yudhoyono rarely spoke about his family. Like Soeharto, he apparently felt insecure because of his common background. His father was an army noncommissioned officer, while his father-in-law was a famous general. Yudhoyono’s mother and father had separated while he was young; his father had died long before he was elected president. Almost nothing is known about his birth mother. She was rumored to have been a member of the communist women’s movement (Gerwani) in Pacitan, her fate unknown. Yudhoyono was estranged from his ailing stepmother, Siti Habibah. Confined to a wheelchair, he brought her to live at his Cikeas family estate, just east of Bogor, before his second term. [9]

Yudhoyono usually deferred to his wife, Ani; as President he consulted her and her mother, Madam Sunarti, before important decisions. Nepotism was apparent early on. Yudhoyono’s brother-in-law, Erwin Sudjono, was awarded three stars in prestigious posts as Kostrad Commander and TNI Chief of General Staff before retiring in December 2007. The President intervened to install Sarwo Edhie Wibowo’s only son, Pramono Edhie Wibowo, as Deputy Kopassus Commander in March 2005, the first officer from his 1980 academy class to earn a star. With the President’s patronage, Pramono moved up quickly as Kopassus Commander in July 2008, West Java Siliwangi Commander in December 2009, Kostrad Commander in September 2010 and Army Chief in June 2011. Ibu Sarwo Edhie also pressed Yudhoyono to find a spot for his other brother-in-law, retired Colonel Hadi Utomo. Consequently, the President made Utomo the Democrat Party Chairman despite his lack of experience or organizational skills. [10]

From a western perspective, Yudhoyono might be seen as corrupt, at least with respect to money raising activities for the election campaign, a practice generally accepted and expected. With backing from General Edi Sudrajat, army-backed Chinese-Indonesian entrepreneur Tommy Winata and his business associates made significant contributions to the Yudhoyono campaign. He accepted the money even though members of his own success team called Winata “the black hand.” In an apparent quid pro quo, Yudhoyono appointed Tommy Winata’s business associate, Yusuf Anwar, as his Finance Minister. While Anwar was serving as secretary general in the Finance Ministry under Soeharto, he had helped Winata obtain a lucrative partnership in the Borobodur Hotel property in Central Jakarta.

Despite those complications, Yudhoyono pledged to crack down on corruption, collusion and nepotism (KKN). Perhaps prudently, he declined to re-open the big New Order corruption cases, including those involving Soeharto family members and cronies. The corruption cases prosecuted during his first term were more symbolic than significant, hardly recouping enough funds to justify the effort.[11] In truth, Yudhoyono’s presidency suffered from its share of corruption and scandals, problems that seriously handicapped his second term.

In July 2007, former Deputy Speaker of Parliament Zainal Maarif, a minority party legislator, dropped a bombshell. He disclosed Yudhoyono had married and had children before entering the Military Academy. Maarif waved a packet of documents, boldly informing fellow lawmakers he held proof of the President’s youthful indiscretion. Under threat of a slander suit, Maarif retracted his statement and apologized. A few months later, he joined the Democrat Party. [12] Soeharto-era Army Chief General Hartono and others, including celebrity lawyer Adnan Buyung Nasution and hard-line Muslim politician Eggi Sudjana, later hinted about the President’s secret marriage. The harsh reaction to each revelation suggested there might be truth to the allegations. Hartono was reportedly silenced after the President’s assistants threatened to reveal his financial dealings. Yudhoyono’s inner circle kept the story from the mainstream, although details were posted on several internet sites. [13]

According to the uncorroborated accounts, after Bambang Yudhoyono graduated from high school in Pacitan, East Java, he continued studies at Airlangga University in Surabaya, where he met a woman named Ida of mixed Javanese-Filipina blood. They married in a civil ceremony in 1968. Yudhoyono dropped out of the university when Ida became pregnant. The couple moved to Malang; he enrolled at the local teachers university. Two daughters were born, Adina and Devi. Yudhoyono applied and was accepted into the Military Academy in 1970 but lied on the application since cadets are required to be single. Ida and the two girls stayed behind in Malang. She agreed with the deception to support her husband’s future prospects.

Cadet Yudhoyono was bright and handsome; he worked hard and excelled at the academy, attracting attention from Military Academy Governor Sarwo Edhie and his daughter, Ani. Bambang graduated first in his class but abandoned his wife and family. He and Ani wed in 1976. He did not tell Ani or her family about his earlier marriage. Several years later, after Ani had given birth to their first son, Agus Harimurti, Yudhoyono confessed his dark secret. Ani was hurt and angry, their happy marriage almost ended. Ultimately, Sarwo Edhie’s family intervened. Ida granted Bambang Yudhoyono a divorce and agreed not to request legal status for her two daughters if he would support them financially. Ida remarried to a German man and moved to Germany, leaving Adina and Devi in the care of her parents in Jakarta. Yudhoyono paid for their education.

After Adina was engaged to Danang, son of Lukman Hakim, a senior official at the state oil company, Pertamina, later convicted on corruption charges, then Major General Bambang Yudhoyono agreed to host the wedding party at his Cilangkap residence in southeast Jakarta. Adina and Devi were both by disappointed because he introduced them as his nieces. Adina sought a civil judgment after Yudhoyono was elected president. In a settlement, she was awarded two houses in Jakarta’s posh Menteng and Pondok Indah neighborhoods. Before Yudhoyono ran for a second five-year term in 2009, Ani stayed in close contact with Ida in Germany and the two daughters to make sure the scandal did not derail her husband’s reelection prospects. She reportedly promised her husband would recognize Adina and Devi’s status as his daughters after he left office.

[1] S.B. Yudhoyono and Agus Wirahadikusumah, Tantangan Pembangunan (Bandung: Forum Pengkajian Seskoad, 1993).

[2] Agus Widjojo busied himself as a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a board member at the National Resilience Institute (Lemhannas) and visiting senior fellow at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies in Singapore. He served as a member on the Indonesia-Timor Leste Joint Truth and Friendship Commission. Finally in 2007, after General Sutarto retired, President Yudhoyono made Agus Widjojo deputy chair for the Presidential Working Unit for the Management of the National Reform Program (Unit Kerja Presiden untuk Pengelolaan Program Reformasi, UKP3R).

[3] Interview with General Endriartono Sutarto, October 26, 2009.

[4] See Peter Britton, Profesionalisme dan Ideologi Militer Indonesia (Jakarta: LP3ES, 1996), p. 164.

[5] Confidential interview, April 2007.

[6] Confidential interview, October 18, 2009.

[7] Confidential interview, April 2007.

[8] Confidential interview, November 10, 2009.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Democrat Party political chief Anas Urbaningrum succeeded Hadi Utomo in May 2010. Urbaningrum was later forced to resign after indicted for accepting bribes.

[11] Confidential interview, March 2006.

[12] Zainal Maarif resigned from the Democrat Party in July 2011 due to differences with party General Chairman Anas Urbaningrum.

[13] For example,

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