Wed, 02 Aug 2000

Intelligence chief visits Ambon, violence rages

AMBON, Maluku (JP): Indonesian Military (TNI) Intelligence chief Air Vice Marshall Ian Santoso Perdanakusuma visited Ambon on Tuesday amid more carnage which left at least 23 people dead in Waai village.

The intelligence chief attended a two-hour briefing on the latest situation and the handling of unrest in Maluku.

"I'm here to coordinate technical assistance with the executor of the civil emergency in Maluku. As an intelligence officer, I'm not supposed to speak too much. My duty is to gather information," Ian told journalists.

"The result of this meeting will be directly reported to the TNI commander. Basically, BAIS (TNI's Strategic Intelligence Agency) is ready to support the executor of the civil emergency," Ian added.

Also present at the meeting were Maluku Governor Saleh Latuconsina, Pattimura Military Commander Brig. Gen. I Made Yasa, Maluku Police chief Brig. Gen. Firman Gani, Ambon Naval Base commander Col. Didi Setiadi and other related officials.

But as top civilian and military officials compared notes, violence raged in Waai village, 28 kilometers south of Ambon, on Tuesday morning.

Governor Latuconsina later visited the village, much of which was already gutted.

The is the second such attack on the village in a month. At least 22 were killed when the village was attacked on July 6.

There were reports that residents of the village were chased and attacked by people in military uniforms.

Witnesses said the number of dead is likely higher than the reported 23 as there were another 10 reported in the village.

Pattimura Military chief I Made Yasa would not elaborate further on the incident, saying only that he was still gathering information about it.

As a result of the raid, a planned meeting between grassroots leaders from warring camps and Governor Latuconsina failed to take place on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in Ambon, about 40 kiosks at Lama market on Jl. Yos Sudarso were gutted by fire on Tuesday morning, following commotion in the area.

Speaking about the question of refugees from Maluku fleeing to neighboring Irian Jaya, Governor Latuconsina said officials were making sure everything could be done so they would be accepted.

"The Irian Jaya administration is willing to accept them and, hopefully, none of them will be rejected or treated like goods that can be easily moved around," Latuconsina said.

In Numbay Port, Jayapura, about 800 refugees who were earlier refused entry into the port were finally allowed to disembark from KM Dobonsolo.

Locals had earlier feared that by allowing these refugees to enter the province, the violence in Maluku would infiltrate into Irian Jaya.

The refugees were taken to nearby churches for temporary shelter.

"We do hope that the refugees will stay calm and avoid possible conflict," Irian Jaya deputy governor Abraham O. Atururi said.(49/34/edt)