Wed, 29 Nov 2000

Officials plan Maluku security before holy days

AMBON, Maluku (JP): In a bid to prevent more sectarian fighting during the upcoming religious festivities in late December and at New Year, leaders of the violence plagued Maluku province met on Tuesday to talk about security plans.

The two-hour meeting led by Maluku Governor Saleh Latuconsina decided, among other things, to field soldiers and police in all spots considered vulnerable to clashes.

Pattimura Military Commander Brig. Gen. I Made Yasa, Maluku Police chief Brig. Gen. Firman Gani, head of the State Prosecutors' Office I.D.K. Kresna, Ambon Navy Chief Col. Didi Setiadi and Provincial Legislative Council speaker Etty Sahuburua attended the meeting at Latuconsina's office.

"The Military and Police chiefs agreed to prevent conflicts during the religious holidays and the New Year's eve celebration. Mass mobilization by the warring groups must be anticipated," Latuconsina said. "We will make sure that mosques and churches are safe from any troublemakers."

The Muslim Idul Fitri holidays will fall on Dec. 27 and 28 and many Malukans have worried that more violence would erupt ahead of the holy days.

Sectarian clashes have been haunting the residents for more than one year, with all steps by the government ineffective at stopping the fighting. Thousands have been killed during the "civil war."

While waiting for the arrival of two companies of marines from Jakarta to bolster security at Ambon Bay, Latuconsina said he had ordered Ambon Navy chief to immediately set up two floating security posts in the bay and man them with existing troops. "The posts will be at Tanjung Marthafons and Yos Sudarso seaport. Areas that are prone to conflict."

He said local authorities had also decided to send one platoon of troops and food stuff to Kesui Island, East Seram, Central Maluku, to help some 500 refugees living in a nearby forest since Sunday's communal clashes.

"It is possible to evacuate the residents from the forest, if they want," he added.

Meanwhile, Japanese Ambassador to Indonesia Takao Kawakami is slated to meet with Latuconsina, local officials as well as the Maluku chapter of the Indonesian Ulemas Council and Amboina Diocese to discuss latest situation.

In his two-day visit, the Ambassador is also scheduled to visit two refugee camps in Kayu Tiga, Soya village, Sirimau district and in Waihaong subdistrict, in Nusaniwe district before leafing for Ternate, North Maluku. (49/lup)