Thu, 03 Aug 2000

Banser members flood Jakarta

SURABAYA (JP): Huge numbers of Banser civilian militiamen have arrived in Jakarta from East Java to safeguard the People's Consultative Assembly's (MPR) Annual Session, despite an official ban.

Chairman of the East Java provincial chapter of the National Awakening Party (PKB) Choirul Anam revealed here on Wednesday that hundreds of Banser members were now in Jakarta.

"They are staying at their relatives' homes in the capital, watching the situation. They are ready to move upon orders to safeguard the session," Choirul said.

The Banser is a civilian militia controlled by the youth wing of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) Muslim organization, which is a staunch supporter of President Abdurrahman Wahid.

Choirul, former East Java Banser commander, said they (Banser members) had come to Jakarta on their own initiative. "They are East Javanese people who want to go the capital of the republic. Should we stop them?"

The first batch of the group arrived in Jakarta on Tuesday, he added.

Many officials, including National Police chief Gen. Rusdihardjo, have appealed to political and religious organizations not to deploy their militiamen during the annual session, from Aug. 7 to Aug. 18.

The East Java chapter of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) vowed to send thousands of members of its Satgas civilian militia to Jakarta for the same purpose. PDI-P is chaired by Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri.

Adrianus Harsono, a chairman of the East Java chapter of the PDI-P, said Satgas commander Susilo Muslim would lead the group. He declined to say when the civilian militiamen would leave Surabaya for Jakarta.

On the possibility of violence between rival militia men, Harsono said the PKB and the PDI-P had reached an agreement a long time ago. "There will be no violence," he said.

Choirul said that members of the party's civilian militia did not represent the NU. "They are in Jakarta at their own expense. We guarantee they will not do anything awful to disturb the session."

Meanwhile East Java Governor Imam Utomo said that he would not be responsible for anything resulting from the deployment of the civilian militia.

"This will be destructive. I will not be held responsible. I know nothing about that," the governor said. (nur/sur)