Fri, 03 Dec 1999

Military pledges to support govt dialog with Acehnese

JAKARTA (JP): Despite mounting clashes in Aceh, the Indonesian Military (TNI) said it was giving room to the government to allow it to find a peaceful outcome to the problems in the troubled province.

"The military with a heavy heart has been forced to deploy a persuasive approach in facing mounting tension in Aceh while waiting for the results of the government's political efforts in seeking the best solution to the Aceh conflict," TNI Commander Adm. Widodo A.S. said on Thursday.

He was speaking after attending the handover ceremony of the Army Chief of Staff from Gen. Subagyo Hadisiswoyo to Gen. Tyasno Sudarto.

Widodo said the Aceh issue was serious and required the complete attention of all components of the nation.

"The Aceh issue is a serious problem not only for the government and the military, but, and mainly, for the nation," he said.

During his address at the ceremony, Widodo warned that the military was ready to take anticipatory action in facing any situation threatening national unity.

"As the state's defender, TNI has to be ready to anticipate every critical situation threatening the country's sovereignty," he said.

The admiral said the military accepted the persuasive approach despite continued attacks by separatist rebels who intimidated civilians while hoodlums in the province had taken advantage of the tension by looting and robbing.

Widodo declined to answer what the military would do if the dialog failed and the Acehnese remained steadfast in their demand for a self-determination referendum.

Separately, military spokesman Maj. Gen. Sudrajat said TNI would take repressive action in facing the Free Aceh Movement in order to restore order and security in the province if all other means proved ineffective.

"The people should not be allergic to repression. A military- style solution will only be the last resort if a diplomatic way out is not possible," he said.

"TNI as the state protector has no other alternative than the repressive approach if all other means are ineffective," he added.

Sudrajat maintained the military in Aceh would exercise extreme patience as long as separatist rebels were committed to the negotiating table.

"However, the military will not remain still if the tension continues," he said, adding that the Aceh problem must be settled in the context of Indonesia as a unitary state.

Gen. (ret) Abdul Harris Nasution, former Army chief, said after the ceremony that the Aceh issue should be solved peaceful ly, but the solution should be in the interest of the majority of the people.

Meanwhile, new Army chief Tyasno said he was hopeful dialog would help ease tension in Aceh.

"We do hope the ongoing dialog introduced by the government and the international lobbies will be fruitful so that the tension calms down and the situation in the province can be controlled," he said.

Tyasno said he would meet with all Military Command chiefs in the near future to evaluate the overall situation at home.

Separately, Amien Rais, Speaker of the People's Consultative Assembly called on the separatist movement in Aceh to refrain from pulling down the Indonesian red-and-white flag in celebrations commemorating the 23rd anniversary of GAM on Saturday.

"The Aceh Independence Movement (GAM) should celebrate its anniversary in a simple ceremony and it should not pull down the national flag to prevent unrest and bloodshed," he said after receiving Singaporean Ambassador Edward Lie, Indian Ambassador Venskha Rahma and Italian Ambassador Carlon Marsili at his office.

Amien, who has expressed support for a federal state in Indonesia to face the threat of disintegration, said the Acehnese people should exercise patience until a peaceful solution to the problem was found. (rms)