Thu, 06 Mar 2003

JSC called upon to stay out of Takengon

Tiarma Siboro and Nani Farida, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto called on the Joint Security Committee (JSC) tripartite monitoring team to stay out of Takengon in Central Aceh until the situation there, following the recent attack on the office of the JSC, returned to normal.

He said that military personnel would do everything in their power to restore the situation so that the JSC could resume their mission in the regency.

Commenting on the attack, he said, "The attack was an expression of the local people, who felt dissatisfied with the JSC, which they consider to be unfair in the handling of local people's complaints on legal violations. Therefore, I call on the JSC to pull out its staff from the region and let my soldiers restore the situation," said Endriartono at a press conference, after a coordination meeting at the local office of Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Wednesday.

It was the first incident since the cessation of hostilities agreement was signed on Dec. 9, 2002, in Geneva, Switzerland, in which the JSC office was badly damaged, two cars torched, two JSC members beaten and several others abducted for a period of six hours.

People in Takengon ran amok because the JSC has yet to investigate the recent kidnapping of a local businessman and to stop the rampant extortion by the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

GAM spokesman Tengku Sofjan Daud has accused the local military-backed militiamen of being behind the attack.

Central Aceh was several regencies which have proposed the formation of a new province to prevent the region from being contracted by separatism.

Endriartono brushed aside the allegation and said, "I'm not so smart as to create something that does not belong to myself as the TNI chief."

Brig. Gen. Savzen Noerdin, an Indonesian representative in the JSC, rejected GAM's accusation that armed civilian militiamen were behind the incident. He said that, according to the results of a preliminary investigation, the attack was launched by local people who were disappointed with the JSC's bad performance.

Meanwhile, deputy spokesman of the Aceh task force Maj. Eddy Fernandy of the navy asserted that there were no militiamen in Takengon. Eddy, nevertheless, admitted that some people in Takengon had homemade weapons to defend themselves against GAM.

"But they were already disarmed last May, and this group does not support GAM," he said.

Commenting on the delayed action taken by security officers, Eddy simply said, "We never thought that a mob could turn that ugly."