Sat, 12 Apr 2003

FKM defies Maluku authorities

Azis Tunny, The Jakarta Post, Ambon, Maluku

The Maluku Sovereignty Front (FKM), affiliated with the South Maluku Republic (RMS) separatist movement, said 2,500 supporters would raise the RMS flag in observance of the group's 54th anniversary on April 25, in defiance of the Maluku authorities.

FKM secretary-general Moses Tuanakota said the banned group had organized numerous activities across the province, including the raising of the RMS flag, to mark the independence movement's anniversary.

"In observing of the RMS' 54th anniversary, supporters and sympathizers will hold a flag-raising ceremony in our home village. As a consequence, 2,500 supporters of the RMS are ready to be shot dead or sent to jail for 20 years," he said during a press conference here on Friday.

Moses said the Indonesian government did not have the authority to bar the FKM and its supporters from celebrating the anniversary because the South Maluku Republic was registered with the United Nations.

"The Indonesian authorities cannot arrest and jail FKM supporters because, unlike the separatist movements in Aceh and Papua, we are fighting for our rights peacefully. Our struggle is a moral movement, not a violent one," he said.

Moses also challenged the government to bring the RMS issue to the UN, saying the two sides should allow the International Court of Justice decide whether the South Maluku Republic is legitimate.

"To prove the legal truth of the RMS' existence, the RMS issue should be brought to an international tribunal, not the Indonesian courts," he said.

Moses also handed out a leaflet in the regency of Central Maluku that called on people not to heed the government's ban on the anniversary celebrations. The leaflet also said Maluku was not part of the Indonesian unitary state.

Acting Maluku Governor Sinyo Harri Sarundayang warned FKM supporters against celebrating the RMS anniversary, saying security authorities would take action against those violating the ban.

Maj. Gen. Agustadi, chief of the Pattimura Military Command overseeing security in Maluku and North Maluku, also warned that security authorities would take action against anyone raising the RMS flag on April 25.

"I have ordered all security personnel to arrest those violating the ban. Both FKM and RMS are banned organizations and their supporters are prohibited from taking part in any political activities," he said after attending a meeting here on Friday.

He also said authorities were considering arresting Moses immediately for security reasons.

Agustadi repeated his warning to FKM supporters not to raise the RMS flag, saying that those violating the ban would be arrested and charged with subversion.

FKM Chairman Alex Manuputty was sentenced to three years in jail for subversion after being found guilty of inciting people to raise the RMS flag last April. He is appealing to Jakarta High Court.

Agustadi also warned the press against writing positive articles about the RMS, discrediting the government or printing provocative news about the separatist movement. He said the press should remain neutral.