Thu, 04 May 2000

Army pledges to punish errant troops in Maluku

AMBON, Maluku (JP): Army Chief of Staff Gen. Tyasno Sudarto has proposed a special team be sent to Maluku to deal with soldiers who overstep their authority in the riot-hit province.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday before completing a two-day visit here, Tyasno pledged the supremacy of the law and promised to be tough with errant soldiers.

"I'm aware of people's allegations of Army involvement in instigating the conflicts in Maluku. I'm not going to defend those who are guilty.

"I've spoken to the Maluku Military chief, and it seems that we lack military judges and prosecutors who can handle (military) violations here," he said.

Maluku-born sociologist Thamrin Amal Tomagola is one of many who believe that the protracted sectarian conflict in Maluku stems from violations committed by the Army.

Ambon was rocked by violence twice last week, resulting in the deaths of at least nine people. The incidents occurred just after a two-day visit by Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri to Maluku.

Tyasno said his proposal was now awaiting the approval of Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Adm. Widodo A.S. He suggested the legal team comprise of members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and National Police.

He said there had been obstacles in punishing troops who had committed violations, mainly because Pattimura Military Commander Brig. Gen. Max Tamaela only serves as the officer in charge of coordinating the troops. In case of a problem, the troops are sent back to their respective units.

"Security deployment in Maluku comes from various units outside of the islands. So it will be difficult to take quick and firm action here," Tyasno said.

Asked whether the latest incident marked the entry of the Laskar Jihad (Jihad Force) to Maluku, Tyasno said that the Army was anticipating the group's movements.

The Muslim group has threatened to wage a jihad on the islands.

Tyasno also asked community chiefs to list and check the activities of newcomers. (49/48/edt)