Fri, 04 May 2001

Military rejects delegating security matters to Aceh

JAKARTA (JP): The Indonesian Military (TNI) and National Police have rejected a proposal to give the Aceh provincial government authority for security arrangements within the troubled province.

TNI Chief Adm. Widodo A.S. told a hearing with the House of Representatives late on Wednesday night that the armed forces would not risk delegating security and defense matters to the province, which has been taking on separatist rebels for years.

Widodo insisted that Jakarta take full control of security and defense arrangements in Aceh, in view of its responsibility to keep the unitary state intact.

"There are two major problems plaguing Aceh: social discontent and the presence of the separatist movement. The first problem must be settled by giving the province special autonomy status, while the second must be responded to with a security approach," Widodo told House legislators who proposed a law that would provide Aceh with wide-ranging autonomy.

The bill, called the special autonomy draft for Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, proposes that the Aceh government determine its own policies on security. These include the establishment of an autonomous police force.

Widodo maintained on Wednesday TNI's role in Aceh as a police backup force "since the problems there have become complex due to the threats by the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) to the country's unity and sovereignty".

Hundreds of military reinforcement troops have been sent to Aceh following the issuance of a presidential directive to restore law and order in the volatile territory last month.

The government dismissed fears that the new security campaign would lead to another series of human rights abuses as happened during a decade of military operations that ended in 1998, saying that the current operation was aimed at "selected targets".

Jakarta has strictly ruled out independence for the westernmost province, and offered special autonomy as part of a political solution to the problem.

"The TNI and the National Police fully appreciate that we must soon enact the special autonomy law for the province as a comprehensive solution to the Aceh problem," Widodo said.

The People's Consultative Assembly set a May 1 deadline for the adoption of special autonomy status for the province that is rich in natural resources.

Also present at the hearing were National Police Chief Gen. Surojo Bimantoro, TNI chief of general affairs Lt. Gen. Djamari Chaniago, TNI chief of territorial affairs Lt. Gen. Agus Widjojo, and the National Police deputy chief Com. Gen. Pandji Atmasudirdja.

Meanwhile, Bimantoro stressed that the special autonomy offered to Aceh should not violate the 1945 Constitution and other laws that remain effective, including Law No. 28/1997 on the National Police and Law No. 20/1982 on National Defense and Security Guidelines.

"Like TNI, the National Police prefers a centralized system since we uphold a unitary, not a federal, state, even though we are promoting regional autonomy," Surojo said.

Surojo also warned that transferring authority over security affairs from the National Police to local government could lead to the politicization of the police. (02)