Fri, 18 Jul 2003

Police on red alert for MPR Annual Session

Damar Harsanto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Two weeks prior to the People's Consultative Assembly's (MPR) Annual Session, police are gearing up to secure the event by imposing a state of red alert.

Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Makbul Padmanagara said, after meeting with MPR leaders on Thursday, that the state of red alert meant that police would utilize their full force in securing the session.

Jakarta Police have 20,895 personnel in total. Under red alert, police personnel would not be permitted to take leave or go out of the city.

"I have told them (the Assembly leaders) that we will tighten security as we must be on alert against possible bomb threats here," he said.

A total of 1,300 personnel will be deployed to safeguard the 15-hectare House of Representatives (DPR)/MPR compound and Hotel Mulia Senayan in Central Jakarta, where the Assembly members will stay during the session, Jakarta Police Security for Key Facilities, chief Sr. Comr. Oegroseno said.

"However, special personnel will not guard Assembly members individually," he added.

The military is expected to back up the police in maintaining security during the session, which is scheduled to take place between Aug. 1 and Aug. 10.

The Assembly's chairman, Amien Rais, said that all Assembly members would be subject to security checks.

"For security reasons, please, don't feel offended. Even the Assembly's chairman and the House speaker are subject to ordinary security checks," he said.

Amien revealed that to secure the session, police would spend Rp 1.1 billion (around US$134,146).

"The costs will be financed by the National Police Headquarters' own budget. The funds are already available," he said.

Also present at the meeting were National Police deputy chief, Comr. Gen. Kadaryanto and Jakarta Military Commander, Maj. Gen. Djoko Santoso.

During the Annual Session, several issues -- including the revocation of several of the Assembly's decrees deemed to be obsolete -- will be discussed.

"We have not received any threats so far. But, We have to consider the bombing at the airport, the bombing near the United Nations Office, and the last bomb attack at the House's compound, as threats," said Makbul.

He referred to the bombs set off at Departure Terminal F of the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport and behind the UN Representative Office in Central Jakarta and the bomb that exploded on Monday morning at the DPR/MPR compound.

Police have yet to name suspects or suggest motives for the three bombings.

The government increased security measures nationwide, from Wednesday, by ordering police to tighten control over key areas and by calling for the public to remain alert.

Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, said that such measures were a result of information from security authorities in Southeast Asia. The information suggested that acts of terror were likely to continue in the future and countries, including Indonesia, would be targeted.

Jakarta Police said that they were still searching for explosives allegedly transported by one of nine suspected members of Jamaah Islamiyah.

Police lost the chance to find out where the explosives were when key suspect, Ikhwanuddin (alias Asim), committed suicide before police could further question him.

Ikhwanuddin was also believed to be responsible for the transportation of explosives, from Semarang to Jakarta, twice last month.

Police also called for alert as a result of suspected JI leader -- (identified as a bomb expert), Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi of Indonesia's -- escape from the Cramp Crame prison in the Philippines. They warned that al-Ghozi was likely to return to Indonesia.

Alleged JI spiritual leader Abu Bakar Ba'asyir is currently being tried at the Central Jakarta District Court for treason and immigration violations.

Police believe that the group is ready to launch attacks on public places and churches and possibly assassinate public figures as they reportedly found that, 23 out of 26 bombs prepared by JI members, were ready to be activated.