Fri, 30 Nov 2001

Government vows to be tougher in restive areas

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Indonesian government would no longer compromise with separatist movements, Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono vowed Thursday.

The government has already deployed 51 battalions or around 50,000 soldiers to the large number of conflict areas throughout the country.

"From the various peace agreements and dialogs that we have conducted, we see that the separatist groups are not willing to abide by them, so we have no choice but to stop them," Susilo said.

He declared that separatist movements in Aceh and Irian Jaya, in particular, would be stopped once and for all.

"We will not make any compromises in maintaining the national interest, especially against those that continue to use violence," Susilo.

On Irian Jaya the retired four-star general said that security forces had been preparing for the province's self-proclaimed Independence Day on Dec. 1.

"We have paid attention to that event and our officers in the province have made preparations to anticipate that day," he said.

Speaking after a Cabinet meeting, presided over by President Megawati Soekarnoputri, Susilo said that the government had thus far failed to see any intention on the part of the separatist groups to end the conflicts through dialog.

The government had always been open to discussions aimed at ending the differences, Susilo said.

The government would continue to increase the activities of the battalions in the conflict areas to help maintain the territorial stability of Indonesia, he said.

"The deployment of the 51 battalions of the Indonesian Military and National Police is aimed at curbing the prolonged unrests. They are stationed in restive provinces, including Aceh, Irian Jaya, Maluku, North Maluku, Kalimantan and Attambua," Susilo said.

The minister said the government was gearing up for the increasing possibility of unrest in various parts of Indonesia in the coming months.

The country has been busy dealing with a series of conflicts, ranging from separatist movements in Aceh and Irian Jaya to sectarian conflicts in Maluku, Kalimantan and Central Sulawesi over the last two years.

Thousands of innocent people have been killed in the conflicts, despite the presence of security forces.

Over the past two days alone Muslims and Christian violence has flared in the Central Sulawesi capital of Poso, with the deaths of seven people at the hands of unidentified armed men.

"From our intelligence reports, the government sees the need to increase its security activities and take more stern action in Poso," Susilo said.

"We will not let Poso become another major conflict area. We believe that there are outsiders who are attempting to provoke the situation. We will not let that continue," the minister said.