Thu, 03 Jul 2003

67,000 civil servants in Aceh face loyalty test

Nani Farida, The Jakarta Post, Banda Aceh, Aceh

Amid the military operation to crush the separatist movement in Aceh, the government has begun to screen a total of around 67,000 civil servants in Aceh to ensure their loyalty to the Unitary Republic of Indonesia.

The provincial administration distributed on Wednesday a list of 10 questions to all government offices in the province to be answered by the civil servants.

"The questions focus on whether or not the civil servants and/or their families are involved in the separatist movement, whether they agree with what GAM is fighting for and their response to GAM's struggle for Aceh's independence," secretary of the provincial administration Tantawi Ishak said here on Wednesday.

He added the screening was aimed at cleansing the bureaucracy of elements of the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

Tantawi said the civil servants' answers to the questions would be examined one by one and those who supported GAM or who were involved in the separatist movement would be punished in accordance with the law.

The law on public administration punishes civil servants who fail to show their loyalty to the government through dismissal.

Tantawi conceded that the government could not detect whether or not the civil servants were honest in answering the questionnaire.

The screening was conducted in response to allegations that civil servants provide political and financial support for the separatist movement. The martial law administration arrested three civil servants recently in Aceh Besar regency and three members of the provincial legislature who allegedly supported the armed rebellion in the province.

The suspects are still undergoing intensive interrogation.

Some 39 civil servants in East Aceh are facing dismissal following their refusal to pledge loyalty to the state in a ceremony in the regency recently although they had been invited three times to the ceremony.

East Aceh regent Azman Usmanuddin said that some civil servants who were known to be GAM sympathizers had not come to their workplace since their recruitment.

He admitted that civil servants who sympathized with the movement have made trouble in the regency but the local administration had not taken action against them.

Azman said he had received many reports that civil servants who were no longer loyal to the government had leaked sensitive information to GAM.