TNI Puts Brakes on Tank Talk as House Takes Aim

By webadmin on 10:18 pm Jan 24, 2012
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Ezra Sihite

The Armed Forces chief said on Tuesday that a final decision had not been made on a widely panned $600 million plan to buy secondhand tanks from the Netherlands.

“The Leopards [tanks] are still being discussed, but what is clear is that this is still just one of several armament options and not yet final. We are still studying what would be the most appropriate course of action,” Adm. Agus Suhartono said.

Speaking at the House of Representatives, Agus said Indonesia needed battle tanks but officials were still discussing which type to buy.

“Please, do not turn this into an issue, as if there is discord between the government and the House of Representatives,” he said. “We are still looking for the best solution, what the needs are and which battle tanks are the most appropriate.”

Susaningtyas Nefo Handayani Kertopati, from House Commission I, which deals with defense issues, said the German-made Leopard tank was not suitable for the geographic conditions in Indonesia.

“We should consider our geography and conditions when buying weaponry. Is the Leopard what we need?” the People’s Conscience Party (Hanura) lawmaker said.

She said a Leopard tank weighed more than 60 tons and could be too heavy for the country’s bridges and roads to handle.

But beyond such concerns, she said, the military should prioritize local industry.

Mohammad Syahfan Badri Sampurno, a member of Commission I from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), said that besides being unsuitable for the geography here, the tanks were fuel guzzlers.

He said state arms manufacturer Pindad was preparing a battle tank prototype that deserved the first look from the military.

“If imports are necessary, the government should look for countries that do not tend to dictate to us too much on arms purchases,” Syahfan said.

A majority of Dutch lawmakers have said they oppose the sale of the Leopards to Indonesia, citing Jakarta’s problematic human rights record.

Ichsanuddin Noorsy, a researcher with Gadjah Mada University’s Anticorruption Study Center, said on Monday that the $600 million deal to buy 100 Leopard tanks would leave Indonesia dangerously dependent on foreign funding and technological support.

He said the purchase would be made through an export credit, putting Indonesia in debt to the Netherlands and making it reliant on the country for maintenance and upgrade support.

Army Chief Gen. Pramono Edhie Wibowo, however, told lawmakers that if the Leopard deal was approved there would be a transfer of technology that would benefit armament and military equipment production in the country.

“Currently, Indonesia does not have MBTs [main battle tanks], so how can we develop our military industry?” Pramono said.

“[The Dutch] will not transfer the technology if we do not buy from them.”

He added that the Army was also studying an offer from the German military for the same tank type.

Additional reporting from Suara Pembaruan