Wed, 05 Apr 2000

Aceh People's Congress rejects security deployment

BANDA ACEH, Aceh (JP): The Aceh People's Congress (KRA) organizers rejected on Tuesday the massive deployment of around 1,700 elite Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) officers to secure the week-long event which is slated to start here on April 22.

"We neither need nor ask for that many security troops. KRA has already organized its own security task force comprised of students and Thaliban," congress coordinator Tengku Syamaun Risyad said on Tuesday.

"We're afraid that the congress may regress into chaos due to Brimob presence. We certainly do not want to give any impression to locals that Jakarta is behind the event by dispatching a large number of security forces. It will ruin everything," he said.

The congress is to be attended by around 1,700 participants, including representatives of the Malaysian-based moderate wing of the Free Aceh Movement Administrative Council (MP-GAM).

There is no confirmation of attendance by representative of the armed wing of separatist rebels Free Aceh Movement (GAM) led by Tengku Abdullah Syafi'ie, Syamaun said.

National Police chief Brig. Gen. Roesdihardjo said in Jakarta on Monday that the dispatch of four battalions of Brimob was needed "so that the congress can take place safely and successfully."

Days before the event, however, tension gripped Banda Aceh and nearby Aceh Besar regency after outbreaks of violence rocked the areas.

Locals complained about soldiers and Brimob officers frequently spraying bullets, wrecking markets without clear reason.

"They do it for a 'trigger-happy' expression and people are terrified. We have filed complaints with the local police chief about the matter," Aceh Besar councillor Tengku M. Amin Hasan said.

Late on Sunday, around 11:30 p.m., two bomb explosions destroyed two rooms in the regency office and local legislature building in Aceh Besar. No casualties were reported in the blasts.

Accidental causes were ruled out when police found a 15-meter wire stretching from the bomb site to the main road, local police chief Lt. Col. Sayed Husaini said.

Also in Aceh Besar, three bodies have been found, including the remains of Muzakir, 32, who was found under the Krueng bridge on Sunday with a gunshot wound to the head.

As a result of security concerns, two special airfields which serve multinational companies in Lhokseumawe, the capital of the giant industrial regency of North Aceh, have halted operations.

"The flights to and from Lhokseumawe have been temporarily halted since Monday. Who knows what will happen next?" a senior officer at Exxon-Mobil (formerly known as Mobil Oil Indonesia) said on Tuesday.

The employees are now working at the company's branch office in Medan, the capital of neighboring North Sumatra province.

Alleged separatist rebels have been blamed for attacks on the airfield belonging to Exxon-Mobil, located 20 kilometers east of Lhokseumawe and the Malikussaleh airfield, about 45 kilometers west of the city. (50/edt)