Mon, 16 Oct 2000

Maluku military to carry out major reshuffle

AMBON, Maluku (JP): Amid prolonged sectarian violence in Maluku and North Maluku provinces, Pattimura Military Command will get six new middle-ranking officers to fill strategic posts in the command.

Pattimura Military Commander Brig. Gen. I Made Yasa, however, dismissed the speculation that the reshuffle was connected to security problems in the area.

"It's a routine tour of duty," he told reporters, claiming that a military reshuffle was a common phenomenon within the Indonesian Military (TNI).

"All of the six officers were in their posts for over one year and five months," he said.

The six military officers will replace Inspector Col. Sumanto, Assistant for Intelligence Affairs Col. Nano Sutarno, Assistant for Operational Affairs Col. Eddy Haryanto, Assistant for Territorial Affairs Col. Budiatmo, Assistant for Planning Col. Puspo Joko Purwanto and the late personnel assistant Col. Supriadi, who died recently of an undisclosed illness.

The command, however, will retain Col. Yohannes Budiharjo as logistics assistant.

Rumors about the replacements were rife after a sociologist of the University of Indonesia, Thamrin Amal Tomagola, told then TNI commander Gen. Wiranto last year that two Army colonels in Maluku should be replaced for being partial in handling the unrest.

Earlier this year, political analyst George Junus Aditjondro accused the outgoing intelligence assistant and the territorial assistant of having aggravated the sectarian conflicts. Nano reportedly supported Muslim residents, while Budiatmo was reportedly too close to local Christian residents.

Budiatmo said earlier that he was not bothered by the accusation, saying he had been put in the position to establish close relations with local residents. Nano, however, refused to comment.

Made Yasa said Jakarta would send one battalion of police Mobile Brigade troops and two helicopters to help settle security problems in the province.

"Maluku is an archipelagic province. Air transportation is deemed necessary to speed up efforts to curb the rioters," he said.

In a related development, a bomb explosion and gunfight instigated by hundreds of rioters from Kebon Cengkih occurred at nearby Waihaong, Tanah Lapang Kecil, Karang Panjang and Mardika areas, all in Sirimau district, Ambon, on Saturday morning.

Antara reported on Sunday that Al Fatah Hospital director, Paing Suryaman, was killed in the incident.

The news agency said that the bomb was thrown by a group of men from Soa Bali village and Paing happened to stand near the explosion site.

Witnesses said the attack came after Waihaong men had beaten a Soa Bali resident.

Paing was rushed to the Al Fatah hospital along with several people who were injured in the bomb blast.

Governor Saleh Latuconsina and Maluku Police chief Brig. Gen. Firman Gani were seen among the people who paid their last tribute to Paing in Al Fatah Hospital. (49/lup)