Tue, 24 Jun 2003

Government threatens separatists loyalists with imprisonment

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The government sent a strong signal against any unfaithful civil servants on Monday, saying that they would end up in jail if they were proven to be backing the secessionist movement in war-torn Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam province.

Minister of Home Affairs Hari Sabarno said the government would not hesitate to arrest government employees supporting the movement, arguing that such civil servants had "forsworn their oath of allegiance to the country".

"Legal sanctions would be imposed against any wrongdoings soon after the government completes a 'nationalism test' on all civil servants nationwide to ensure that they are completely loyal to the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia," Hari said, as quoted by Antara after installing members of a council tasked to oversee an enterprise here owned by Aceh province.

The test will be held throughout the country from July 1 to July 31.

The test was initially planned for civil servants working in the province, where government troops are battling the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels.

The martial law administration in the province arrested last week staff members of the provincial administration suspected of supporting the movement. It also arrested several local councillors as well as businessmen accused of supporting GAM.

The government imposed martial law in Aceh last month to crush the GAM rebels, who have been trying to set up an independent state within the resource-rich, but underdeveloped, province since 1976.

Besides the separatism in Aceh, the government is also facing serious threats of disintegration in the country's easternmost province of Papua, and is likely targeting to settle the problems there soon after the security operation in Aceh. Similar separatism movements have also emerged in other provinces, such as the Riau Merdeka (Free Riau) and the South Maluku Republic (RMS).

Separately, Aceh governor Abdullah Puteh said the planned test would be different from the one introduced during the 32 years of the New Order regime.

Puteh said such screenings were required as part of the government's efforts to improve state employees' professionalism.

He, however, was quick to add that the government "was determined to detect civil servants supporting the secessionist movement here".

Earlier, a security official said that the arrest of those civil servants suspected of supporting GAM was based on intelligence reports as well as field investigations.

Under the New Order regime, many people were arbitrarily arrested for their alleged involvement in the Sept. 30, 1965 abortive coup blamed on the now-defunct Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

Tight screening tests were held afterwards, although they were biased against certain citizens of the country, such as?.