Thu, 04 Mar 1999

Armed Forces to segregate clashing parties in Ambon

JAKARTA (JP): A senior military officer called on Wednesday for the establishment of a demarcation line to separate conflicting parties in Ambon as fresh protests mounted over Monday's shooting incident in Ahuru village in the Maluku capital.

Governor of the National Resilience Institute Lt. Gen. Agum Gumelar told a hearing with the House of Representatives Commission I on security, defense and political affairs that physical separation was a must in order to prevent the religious conflicts in the riot-torn city from worsening.

"In the short term at least separation of the Muslims and Christians has to be effected. The Armed Forces is expected to stand in the middle of the two conflicting groups and play a mediatory role," Agum said.

The presence of security forces is now aimed at preventing any meeting between the two conflicting parties, other than to restore the order, according to Agum.

Secretary general of the National Defense and Security Council Lt. Gen. Arifin Tarigan and former Army chief and home affairs minister Gen. (ret) Rudini, who accompanied Agum in the hearing, supported Agum's suggestion.

Rudini said massive exoduses of people of the same religion would sooner or later result in geographical separation of the conflicting sides.

Meanwhile pressures mounted on Wednesday on the Armed Forces to probe the Monday shooting allegedly involving police. A number of Muslims were killed in the incident.

Some 1,000 students grouped in the Indonesian Muslims Action Student Front (KAMMI) staged a rally in front of the Ministry of Defense and Security office on Jl. Medan Merdeka Barat, Central Jakarta. They called on Minister of Defense and Security/Armed Forces Commander Wiranto to catch the culprits and uncover the causes of the riots, which have been underway for more than one month.

"It is better for all the nation's leaders to go to Ambon and arrange a peace settlement among the people," group leader Fitra Arsil said.

Later in the day at the same spot a group of 100 Ambon people living in Jakarta followed suit. The group, calling themselves the Forum Suara Rakyat Maluku (Voice of the Mollucan People's Forum), urged the Armed Forces to take fast and concrete actions.

The forum coordinator, Christ Latuperissa, said they expected to hear Wiranto's response within two weeks.

In Bandung, some 150 volunteers grouped in the Gerakan Pemuda Islam (Islamic Youth Movement) announced they were set for a holy war in Ambon. According to group leader Yatno Abdullah, the youths are being trained in Sukabumi and Bandung.

"We have sent one of our female members to Ambon and she regularly reports any atrocities there," Yatno told reporters during the group's rally at the local police headquarters.

In Bogor, West Java, 500 students grouped in the Forum Baranang Siang or Forum Badar held a rally on the Bogor Institute of Agriculture campus, condemning the continuing fray in Ambon.

"We call on all Muslims to unite.. and for all people to restrain themselves so they are not easily provoked by rumors intended to divert our sweeping reform movement," forum coordinator, Akbar, said.

Another student rally took place in Semarang, Central Java when 100 students of diversified groups, including KAMMI and the local Teachers Training Institute, gathered at the Central Java Police headquarters to call for Wiranto's resignation.

The students said Wiranto had failed to maintain order in the country. "ABRI (the Armed Forces) must be held responsible for all of the things which have happened in Ambon," the protesters shouted.

The students also asked for the political elites not to further provoke and engineer conflicts but to pool donations for the victims of the Ambon riots instead.

Separately in Medan, North Sumatra, hundreds of students went to the North Sumatra Police headquarters to read out a statement of their concern over the Monday shooting in front of North Sumatra Police chief Brig. Gen. Sutiyono. The rally caused heavy traffic congestion in the area.

In its media release, the Justice Party urged Muslims in troubled Maluku province to defend themselves against the enemy by arming themselves.

"Self-defense is a human right," the party's president Nur Mahmudi Ismail said.

Chairman of Muhammadiyah Syafii Maarif in a press release quoted by Antara condemned the Monday incident and called on all Muslims to take concrete actions in helping the victims of the ongoing conflicts in the troubled province.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI) slammed inaccurate, widely-publicized information about conflicts occurring in Maluku province. The PGI Crisis Center expressed in a statement Wednesday dismay about unbalanced media reports that would "mislead the public and Indonesian political community in particular."

In another related development, chairman of National Mandate Party (PAN) Amien Rais said in Kudus, Central Java, that he was ready to mediate in the clash if local residents there wanted him to do so. (edt/43/21/24/har)