Fri, 12 Sep 2003

Susilo blames bureaucrats for retarding military

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono blamed local government officials, with questions about their "loyalty", for hampering the ongoing operation in war-ravaged Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (NAD).

Susilo said the central government had received information on the officials' poor performance and would conduct investigations to follow up the report.

"We have questioned their performance, financial management skill and loyalty to the state," Susilo said after a Cabinet meeting on Thursday.

Martial law was declared in NAD on May 19 paving the way for a massive offensive against the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). The government has recently claimed that it has seized control of over 95 percent of GAM's strongholds.

The government has deployed around 35,000 military and 14,000 police troops to crack down on the estimated 5,000 rebels who have been carrying out an armed independence struggle for decades.

According to the presidential decree ordering martial law, the joint operation was supposed to combine the military offensive with a humanitarian mission, an increased law enforcement component and to get the local bureaucracy operating in accordance with central government procedures.

So far the military offensive has overshadowed the rest of the so named integrated operation, in its first four months. Initially, it was meant to only last six months, but the President may extend martial law as the military leaders have reportedly asked for time.

Susilo said there would be a massive performance appraisal of all local government officials in NAD, starting from the governor to the lowest ranking civil servant.

"What we have been hearing is that the loyalty of some is questionable and if we can prove that, we will punish them," the minister asserted.

He added that the evaluation would begin as soon as possible and focus only on civilian officials.

"There is nothing wrong with our security troops, both the military and police, prosecutors and the rest of the officials outside the administration," Susilo claimed.

Regarding the martial law status, Susilo said the President had ordered an overall evaluation of the joint operation in NAD in the second week of October before deciding whether the status would be lifted or maintained.

"We need to maintain the improving security situation in the province," Susilo said.

Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto said regardless of the change in the security status of NAD, the military would maintain a massive number of soldiers in the province.

He said the troops would "ensure the safety" of the area until GAM was demolished and its leaders captured.

"The security is improving in Aceh, but we are still trying our best to arrest the main leaders of the rebel movement," Endriartono said, possibly referring to those in Sweden.

The TNI has ordered new rifles for its soldiers there, presumably to replace lost or stolen ones.

In Banda Aceh, the provincial police announced a joint ID card check after being delayed for over one month due to the slow distribution of the cards.

During the operation, people aged 17 and above or those who are married have to produce their ID cards, which carry the national red and white flag.

Head of the law enforcement operation Sr. Comr. Sayed Hoesainy the operation would be conducted by police officers and local administration officials door to door, although it will take place only in certain areas.

So far nearly 2.5 million of the 2.65 million ID cards have been distributed.