Fri, 09 May 2003

Troops await govt ruling on Aceh

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesian security forces are waiting for a government ruling to provide a legal umbrella for joint operations in Aceh.

National Police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar and Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto said the government should soon make a decision on the status of Aceh. The officers said the decision would serve as the basis for any operation aimed at quelling the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and restoring security in the country's westernmost province.

"Only after the government takes a political decision and declares the status of Aceh can we determine who will be the focal point of any joint operations," Da'i said on Thursday.

Endriartono said the military could not move ahead with any offensive without a clear legal basis.

There are some 40,000 military and police personnel already deployed in Aceh.

"The government should make a political decision, whether it is civil emergency, martial law or war status for the province," he said.

Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the status of Aceh would be decided during a limited Cabinet meeting to be held sometime after next Monday, the deadline for GAM to lay down its arms and accept the unitary state of Indonesia as preconditions for peace talks.

According to Law No. 23/1959 the president can declare civil emergency, martial law or war in any region of the country or for the whole country in the case of rebellion, mass violence or natural disaster.

This law suggests that President Megawati Soekarnoputri, as the TNI's supreme commander, will be held responsible for any operation in Aceh and all of the implications that would entail.