Tue, 31 Oct 2000

Ambon to resume town's public bus services

AMBON, Maluku (JP): Ambon will relaunch public bus services along the town's three main thoroughfares as of Wednesday after they were suspended for some time due to the ongoing sectarian conflict in the area.

Mayor Chris Tanasale cited on Monday improving security conditions as the main factor for the decision to resume what he called "reconciliation" bus services.

"The resumption of the bus services should help people resume their activities," he said, adding that three 24-seater busses had been provided by DAMRI, a state-owned bus company.

Four police and military officers would be assigned to each bus to ensure safe and secure services which will run between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m, he said.

Bus services along the three thoroughfares, located in the Sirimau and Teluk Ambon Baguala districts, had been disrupted since the sectarian conflict between Muslims and Christians erupted in Ambon in January 1999. They were eventually stopped completely.

"Now both communities can benefit from the operation of the `reconciliation buses'," Chris said, stressing that the services could also mark the return of a more peaceful coexistence.

Separately, the Pattimura Military Command which oversees Maluku and North Maluku, called on public leaders to refrain from making controversial statements or criticism which would only heighten tension in the area.

"If they don't stop criticizing one another, don't ever dream of seeing peace and security here," Pattimura Military Chief Brig. Gen. I Made Yasa was quoted by Antara as saying.

Sectarian clashes over the last 22 months have claimed at least 2,000 lives and forced thousands of others to flee their homes.

Made Yasa said both communities should denounce the use of violence in resolving conflicts.

He also warned that the military would be impartial in taking stern action against rioters.

The military last week arrested 12 armed men who claimed to be members of the Yogyakarta-based Ahlusunnah Wal Jamaah Laskar Jihad (Islamic holy warriors) during a riot in Air Salobar.

From them, security forces confiscated military-standard grenade launchers, ammunition and uniforms.

Made Yasa also disclosed that the military seized 1,300 bomb detonators, hidden under a pile of watermelons, as they were about to be unloaded from KM Lambelu at Yos Sudarso port in Ambon. (49/lup)