Indonesian Defence Minister Lieutenant-General (Rtd) Prabowo Subianto Djojohadikusumo said his official visit to Malaysia is akin to coming home. The retired three-star army general, who for a while studied and grew up in Kuala Lumpur, said it was like revisiting his childhood days.
“It is like pulang ke kampung for me. Kuala Lumpur reminds me of my younger days where I went to school and grew up here,” said Prabowo, 68, who studied at Victoria Institution (VI) in Jalan Hang Tuah.
His schoolmates included former TV3 managing director and New Straits Times Press marketing senior group general manager Datuk Hisham Abdul Rahman, who is the Royal Selangor Golf Club’s Junior Sports Development Committee chairman.
“I am touched by the hospitality and respect extended to me during my visit. There are so many (of my friends) here,” he said at a joint media conference with his Malaysian counterpart, Mohamad Sabu, at the Armed Forces Officers Mess in Jalan Tekpi.
Malaysia is Prabowo’s first official visit abroad since being appointed to the Indonesian cabinet on Oct 23. Prabowo said he had been given a mandate by Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to ensure that dynamic bilateral ties concerning defence and security with Malaysia were a top priority and enhanced further.
“The leaders of both countries share many similarities in thoughts. I am optimistic we can move forward for the sake of maintaining regional peace, security and stability.”
He said Indonesia looked forward to enhancing its exchange of officers, training and technical know-how on defence industries with Malaysia.
Much of it, he said, could be done through the General Border Committee Meeting, Straits of Melaka Patrol and Trilateral Cooperative Arrangement involving the Philippines.
Mohamad said Malaysia remained committed to continuing its special ties with Indonesia, which were established 62 years ago. He said among the topics discussed with Prabowo were on combating non-traditional security threats, sharing aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul, and other technology.
“For instance, both countries operate the Hercules C-130 transport aircraft and (Russian-made) Sukhoi fighter jets. We can optimise our resources for greater operability, including in matters related to foreign investments.”
Malaysia operates 18 Su-30MKM Flankers, while Indonesia, which has operated a number of Su-27SK and Su-30MKII before, procured 11 Su-35 aircraft last year for US$1.14 billion (RM4.7 billion).
He said they also discussed maritime security issues in the Straits of Malacca, Sulu Sea, Natuna Sea, Celebes Sea and the South China Sea concerning China’s nine-dash line sovereignty claims.
Former Indonesian army commando-turned-politician Prabowo was given a ceremonial welcome. He inspected a guard-of-honour mounted by three officers and 103 other ranks led by Major Mohd Izham Ahmad Rashidi from the First Battalion Royal Malay Regiment at the Defence Ministry in Jalan Padang Tembak here.
His 22-member delegation included Indonesia’s defence strategy director-general, M.G. Rizerius Eko, his expert staff for international cooperation Soemadi Brotodiningrat, legislative assembly member Sugiono and Indonesian naval attache Colonel Renny Lilik Asmoro.
On Oct 23, Jokowi surprised many by appointing Prabowo despite the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) chairman being his election rival. Prabowo is the former son-in-law of Indonesia’s second president, Suharto.
He is the son of economist and one-time Suharto confidant Sumitro Djojohadikusumo and Dora Marie Sigar. He graduated from the Indonesian Military Academy in 1970 and served in the Special Forces (Kopassus) until his appointment as chief of the Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad) in 1998.
In the 2009 presidential election, he ran unsuccessfully for the vice-presidency as Megawati Sukarnoputri’s running mate. He contested the 2014 presidential election but was defeated by the then Jakarta governor Jokowi. He made another unsuccessful run for the presidency earlier this year.