Sat, 25 Mar 2000

Hendro welcomes reopening of Lampung case

JAKARTA (JP): Responding to the growing demand for the reopening of past human rights abuses in the country, the former chief of Lampung Military Command Lt. Gen. A.M. Hendropriyono said on Friday he welcomed an investigation into alleged military abuse during the quelling of a rebel group in the province in 1989.

"If I don't agree (with the demand), people will accuse me of hiding something," Hendropriyono told a news conference here.

"I am not someone special who has the authority to disagree or agree with public demand."

Friday's media briefing was held in response to a mounting demand for the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) to inquire into the military crush of members of a Muslim group led by Anwar Warsidi in the South Lampung village of Talang Sari III. At least 30 people were killed in the incident, according to witnesses.

Hendropriyono, who led the operation in his capacity as the province's military commander, said the crackdown was conducted in response to the growing anxiety among the public over the group's activities.

The operation involved local people, according to Hendro, who is also former transmigration and resettlement of forest nomads minister.

"It was not a military operation. It was jointly conducted by military personnel and locals," Hendro said.

Hendro conceded that the military troops deployed were fully armed after receiving a tip-off that the rebel group had prepared arrows and other sharp weapons. He said the soldiers opened fire after Warsidi's supporters attacked them with arrows.

"If we were not carrying any weapons, we would not have been able to quell them," he said.

Hendro said he did not know the precise number of fatalities resulting from the raid. (emf)