Fri, 23 Jun 2000

Military officers role in Poso riots investigated

MAKASSAR, South Sulawesi (JP): Wirabuana Military Police are investigating the alleged involvement of 28 soldiers in the Poso riots which began on May 23, regional military commander Maj. Gen. Slamet Kirbiantoro disclosed on Thursday.

"The 28 military members are being questioned as there are strong indications they were involved in the unrest," Slamet said after attending a ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of the military command which oversees Sulawesi.

Among the suspects are four junior officers, including a captain who is the operational chief of the Poso military district. The remaining suspects are noncommissioned officers, Slamet said.

He said he was informed of the officers alleged involvement in the riots by the military commander of Poso, a remote tourist destination.

"Actually, the Poso military commander detected their activities quite some time ago but he didn't want to take abrupt action as he was alone. If he played the hero, he would have been badly beaten.

"He waited for backup from us before making a move," Slamet said.

Meanwhile, Wirabuana Military Police chief Col. Sudirman Panigoro said his office was gathering evidence on the officers, who have been withdrawn to the Southeast Sulawesi capital of Palu.

Sudirman said the suspects were not being detained, citing a lack of personnel to replace them if they were made inactive.

Security in Poso is improving after weeks of violence that left 126 people dead.

However, in Palu scores of Chinese-Indonesians fearing a spread of the violence have begun to flee the province, Antara reported. The news agency said on Thursday that since early June at least 25 percent of the more than 200 Chinese-Indonesian businesspeople in Palu had evacuated their families to Java, Batam and Singapore. (27/edt)