INDONESIA’S armed forces should stay out of politics and remain loyal to the government, the country’s president has said.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s remarks yesterday were an apparent rebuke over contentious statements by the country’s top general.

General Gatot Nurmantyo has stirred controversy in the past month with warnings of a renewed communist threat to Indonesia and a claim that a non-military organisation was trying to import thousands of weapons.

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In a speech to a parade marking the military’s 72nd anniversary, Jokowi said the armed forces are a national institution that should stay above politics and not be fragmented by narrow interests.

The military “should always ensure its political neutrality in the current democratic era”, he said.

Indonesia’s army retreated from politics after the fall of dictator Suharto in 1998 ushered in democracy, but nearly two decades later a role limited to national defence is not fully accepted among officers or the rank-and-file.

It has tried to inch back into civilian areas and resented the police’s leading role in counter-terrorism.

Jokowi’s predecessor as president was a former general, as was his main rival in the 2014 presidential election, Prabowo Subianto.

Local media said Gen Nurmantyo might run for president in 2019.