Mon, 12 Jun 2000

Police say snippers not to be deployed

JAKARTA (JP): City police spokesman Lt. Col. Zainuri Lubis asserted on Saturday that Jakarta Police would not deploy snipers at commercial centers in anticipation of possible mass unrest during the upcoming General Session of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) in August.

"We aren't going to deploy snipers in the city. The media has got the message wrong," he said, blaming the media, who quoted Governor Sutiyoso as saying it was so.

"The deployment of snipers will only reflect that the situation is very bad," Zainuri told The Jakarta Post over the phone.

He said the police would reinforce its personnel guarding the city's main business centers.

"We'll deploy a number of plain-clothes detectives to monitor the situation. I don't know the exact number because I'm still out of town," he said.

Governor Sutiyoso on Friday, two days after a meeting with top officers from the police and military, confirmed that the Jakarta Police would use sharpshooters at 25 main business centers during the August MPR general session.

"City Police Headquarters has agreed to deploy its sharpshooters to protect the business centers from possible outbreaks during the MPR general session," he told reporters at City Hall.

"But how many personnel will be deployed and where they will be positioned will be up to them to decide," he said.

The business centers to be guarded by the snipers will include Mangga Dua, Mangga Besar, Hayam Wuruk and Gajah Mada shopping centers in West Jakarta; Blok M, Mayestik, Pasar Minggu and Pondok Indah Mall in South Jakarta; Jatinegara and Rawamangun in East Jakarta; Pasar Baru, Tanah Abang and Senen markets in Central Jakarta; and Kelapa Gading, Sunter Podomoro and Mega Mall Pluit in North Jakarta.

"There's nothing to worry about," said Sutiyoso, who is also the chairman of the Indonesian Shooting and Hunting Association (Perbakin).

Contacted on Saturday, city councillors said they were strongly opposed to deployment of sharpshooters to control rioters.

Councillor Syarif Zulkarnaen of the United Development Party (PPP) faction said the deployment of snipers was only the last resort to deter rioters.

"The police must use other means to break any possible riots because shooting will only cause more problems," he said.

"There are procedures on shooting in sight of perpetrators. On duty officers must follow the procedures to avoid any mishaps," he added, while saying officers should first fire warning shots in the air, instead of shooting directly at rioters.

Another councillor, Josef Mangondow Kabulloh of the Unity in Diversity Party (PBI) faction shared the idea. But, he said he has been told that the issue is groundless because the police will not use sharpshooters.

Josef suggested the police just tighten security. "I don't think it's necessary to deploy snipers if police can anticipate riots and prevent them from happening," he added.

However, he agreed that police should reinforce its personnel in guarding business centers.

"Without security guarantees, business people aren't likely to maintain operations," he said, while urging all parties to practice self restraint.

"Both demonstrators and police officers must restrain from provoking each other," he added. (nvn)