Fri, 30 Jun 2000

Emergency status in Maluku takes effect at snail's pace

AMBON, Maluku (JP): With open attacks largely suppressed in Ambon, sniper fire has become the most immediate concern for many residents.

Throughout the city sporadic solo gunfire, believed to come from gunmen hiding in ruble and vacated buildings, could be heard as the state of civil emergency in Maluku and North Maluku entered its third day on Thursday.

Rosa Pieters, a woman who was shot by a sniper a day earlier, died on Thursday at Dr. Haulussy General Hospital.

Her passing followed 66 other tragic deaths that have occurred since the latest upsurge of violence began here on June 21.

Residents are calling for swifter action from security forces such as a sweep against snipers and gunmen who still freely roam parts of the city.

"We are afraid to walk or even go out to the market as we could be shot at anytime, anywhere," Marla, a housewife, said.

Meanwhile, the military continues preparations to tighten even further its grip around the city.

Indonesian Military (TNI) chief of staff Lt. Gen. Djamari Chaniago made a brief visit to Ambon to review the latest situation.

At Pattimurra Airport, Djamari held a two-hour meeting with Maluku Governor Saleh Latuconsina, the new Pattimura Military command chief Col. I Made Yasa and Maluku Police commander Brig. Gen. Firman Gani.

"We discussed the ground rules of the civil emergency and its implementation in the field. As for troop deployment, we will do that after the evaluation of (the emergency status)," Djamari said.

"So far we've only conducted troop replacement and rotation," he added.

Djamari then flew to Ternate to hold similar briefings with local authorities in North Maluku.

I Made Yasa said after the meeting that starting Thursday night patrols would strictly enforce the curfew.

"We will approach crowds of people in a persuasive way, but if hostility is encountered, we will take firm action by firing shots," he said.

The patrols will be concentrated at borders between conflicting areas and disputed areas such as Batu Merah and Mardika and downtown Ambon, he said.

"Please do not try to intercept or disturb the security forces because the consequences will be fatal," Yasa warned.

Governor Saleh Latuconsina also reiterated that local authorities will probably also impose a ban on certain local media, including television, radio and newspapers that are perceived to have provoked the people.

"We will evaluate the past two days of the emergency status. Several local media have been giving unbalanced reports about the riots. We warn them to stop doing this or they will be barred,' he said.

Saleh also reminded of the July 1 deadline for handing in weapons and for troops who have left their units to return back to their respective commands.

Under the state of emergency, the local governor is empowered to take wide measures to stem the violence, including ordering the military to make sweeping raids, ban meetings and put areas off limits to the public. (49/edt)