Thu, 18 Sep 2003

Security tightened ahead of Bali ASEAN summit next month

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Over 4,000 soldiers and police are being prepared to safeguard the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, to be held on the resort island of Bali next month, a government official says.

State Secretary/Cabinet Secretary Bambang Kesowo told House of Representatives Commission I on defense and foreign affairs on Wednesday that three special teams, totaling 4,404 personnel, would be deployed for the two-day summit, scheduled to start on Oct. 7.

About half of the personnel would come from the military.

"To anticipate the possibility of higher-level disturbances, antiterror teams and their equipment will also be involved, as well as backup from sea and air patrols by the Indonesian Military headquarters," Bambang said.

He said most of the security personnel would be plainclothed, so as to maintain the benign image of the resort island, which remains the country's principal tourist destination.

The government had also earmarked funds totaling Rp 39.9 billion to finance the security measures, he said.

Leaders of the 10 member states of ASEAN are expected to attend the summit, while accompanying talks will also be attended by top representatives from several Asian partners, including China, Japan, South Korea and India.

ASEAN comprises Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Bambang also told the lawmakers that the disclosure on fund allocation was being made to dismiss any accusations that the state secretary had been involved in collusion by purchasing luxury cars that would be used by ASEAN heads of state.

"The allegation is unfounded and untrue, as we have received assistance from car producers such as Volvo, BMW, Nissan and Hyundai," he said.

Separately, Australia Prime Minister John Howard said security measures in Bali would be tight ahead of a memorial service held to mark the first anniversary of the 2002 bombings that killed 88 Australians. The blast claimed a total of 202 lives, mostly foreign holidaymakers.

"Security is a major consideration in our planning for the Bali service and other associated events to be held in Bali," Howard told a parliament session. "We are working closely with the Indonesian authorities on this."

Indonesian police, together with the Australian police, will provide security for the memorial service.

A service will be held in Bali on the morning of Oct. 12, with the Australian government funding victims and relatives who wish to go. It will end with singer John Williamson leading a rendition of Australia's unofficial national anthem, Waltzing Matilda.

Howard and Australia's opposition Labor leader, Simon Crean, will attend the service but Indonesian President Megawati Soekarnoputri will not, sending a senior representative, as Jakarta has said she would be busy hosting a visit by the Algerian president.

A second service will be held in the national parliament in Canberra on Oct. 16.

Howard said various other events were also being organized to mark the occasion, with a memorial to the victims to be unveiled in the grounds of Parliament House and a special honors list to recognize the bravery of those who helped victims and families.

The terrorist bombings of two bars in the popular Kuta resort, Bali, are regarded by many in Australia as the country's own Sept. 11.

A shadowy terrorist group, Jamaah Islamiyah, has been blamed for the blasts. Two of the group's members who acted as field operators in the bombings, Imam Samudra and Amrozi, have already been sentenced to death for their primary role in the carnage.