Wed, 28 Jun 2000

Experts call for military emergency in Maluku

JAKARTA (JP): Just a day after a state of civil emergency was imposed on Maluku and North Maluku, observers suggested on Tuesday raising the alert status further to a military emergency to ensure that violence is truly suppressed.

Concerns were also raised about the effectiveness of the civil emergency without replacing exhausted, and possibly biased, troops in the area.

Noted sociologist Thamrin Amal Tomagola, a Maluku native, took an extreme line, saying that a military emergency, tantamount to martial law, should be applied.

He doubted if the regional civil emergency authority -- under Maluku Governor Saleh Latuconsina and North Maluku Governor Brig. Gen. (ret) Abdul Effendie -- could control the situation as "they have lost legitimacy and no longer function".

Speaking to The Jakarta Post, the University of Indonesia scientist, who has done extensive work on the troubles in the area, predicted that the situation would only worsen.

He proposed that President Abdurrahman Wahid declare a military emergency with certain modifications.

"The military emergency should be applied for at least six months," Thamrin said, adding that the President must handpick Indonesian Military (TNI) officers to take command there.

He claimed that many of those already there were already either politically or emotionally involved.

The government has already appointed a new military and police commander for the area. On Monday, Col. I Made Yasa replaced Brig. Gen. Max Tamaela as Pattimura Military commander while Brig. Gen. Firman Gani took over from Brig. Gen. I Dewa Astika as Maluku Police chief.

Thamrin charged that certain officers from the Brawijaya Military Command in East Java were linked with the Jihad Force, alleged to be the source of the latest outbreak.

He claimed that soldiers from the Brawijaya Military Command deployed in Halmahera, North Maluku, were loyal in their duties to their commanding officers' interests rather than the regional military commander, which was Tamaela.

"As a last resort we must allow international humanitarian intervention," he said.

Thamrin stressed that the media should not be banned from the area. "The media should be allowed to watch the soldiers."

Bagir Manan, a constitutional law expert of the Bandung-based Padjajaran University, also noted the need to bring fresh soldiers.

"Troops there are physically and psychologically tired. Besides, intruders must be blocked from the islands and those who have already entered must be expelled," he said on Tuesday.

He also prescribed active censorship of all correspondence. "This might seem outrageous, but since the situation in Maluku is extraordinary, we might as well do that".

He further stressed that the central government keep a tight rein on the civil authority which now has immense powers.

"I think a three-month deadline is necessary ... if the situation gets worse, a state of military emergency may be applied," Bagir added.

Another sociologist, Lambang Triyono, however, said a fortnight should be the limit to evaluate the situation.

In the two-week period, the military should sweep for weapons and expel unnecessary outsiders, Lambang of the Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University said.

Minister of Home Affairs Surjadi Soedirdja indicated on Tuesday that the government was not adverse to imposing a military emergency.

"Martial law can be applied. But we hope not," Surjadi said.

Political observer J. Kristiadi remarked that the public should not fear a military exploitation of the situation.

"I believe TNI won't abuse their power ... they will be very careful. I just hope they aren't afraid of taking stern measures against rioters," Kristiadi said on Tuesday.

"But it's also important to replace soldiers who have been there for some time because it's very dangerous to have soldiers who are emotionally involved," he told the Post.

Separately, TNI spokesman Rear Air Marshall Graito Usodo told the Post that about 1,400 soldiers who had been in Ambon more than six months would be replaced.

"We hope the new soldiers from the Army are not contaminated and can perform their duties professionally. It will be in the very near future," Graito said.(25/44/edt/jun/dja)