The Leaderboard: Gatot Nurmantyo

The Leaderboard profiles the people behind the policies of the Asia-Pacific.Who is he?

General Gatot Nurmantyo is currently the chief of staff of the Indonesian army. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on June 10 nominated him to be the next commander-in-chief of the Indonesian military, replacing the outgoing General Moeldoko when he retires in August.

General Gatot Nurmantyo. Source: 8th Theater Sustainment Command's flickr photostream, U.S. Government Work.

General Gatot Nurmantyo. Source: 8th Theater Sustainment Command’s flickr photostream, U.S. Government Work.

Why is he in the news?

Gatot’s nomination has been somewhat controversial and unexpected. Traditionally, the position of military commander has rotated among the chiefs of each service. As Moeldoko is from the army, this tradition suggested that his successor as commander-in-chief should be the air force chief of staff.

The rotation system was established as a means to check the power of the army, which has traditionally been the most influential and well-funded of Indonesia’s military branches. Observers have noted that while the nomination of an army general seemingly clashes with Jokowi’s vision of transforming Indonesia into a global “maritime nexus,” it may serve to secure the army’s support for his administration’s plans to invest in and upgrade Indonesia’s navy, air force, and a new coast guard.

What can we expect from him?

Gatot, who will be subject to a fit-and-proper test in the parliament in the coming days, is considered a strong nationalist. In March, he warned during a speaking tour at universities across Indonesia that a nebulous foreign threat was waging a “proxy war” against the country.

If confirmed, Gatot will lead Indonesia’ military during a critical period. Both the United States and ASEAN countries increasingly expect Indonesia to play a bigger leadership role in regional security issues, and the growing tensions over disputes in the South China Sea in particular. At home, Gatot will need to help advance the modernization of Indonesia’s naval forces and coordinate with the police as well as international partners in dealing with the threats posed by terrorists in Indonesia sympathetic to the Islamic State.


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