Violence defies civil emergency
AMBON, Maluku (JP): Gunfire and explosions were the sounds of the day here on Tuesday, defying a state of civil emergency imposed across Maluku hours earlier.
Blood tainted the soil of what were once known as the spice islands as a security officer was killed and two civilians injured from gunshots, bringing the death toll in a week of violence to 66. Overnight clashes left 13 people, including five security officers, dead.
Pvt. Ongen Sihasale was shot in the head by a sniper in the Tanah Lapang Kecil area of the disputed Talake subdistrict about 5 p.m. local time on Tuesday, and died en route to Dr. Haulussy General Hospital.
Earlier in the day, a housewife, identified only as Mrs. Pieters, and an employee named Raymond Frans also suffered gunshot wounds from sniper attacks. They are being treated at the private Bakti Rahayu Hospital.
Hundreds others have been injured, mostly from bullets and bomb shrapnel over the past week following clashes in the Ambon areas of Batugantung, Talake, Ahuru and Sirimau and the Nania and Baguala subdistricts on the outskirts of the town. Thousands of people have sought refuge in several police stations and Halong Naval base, six kilometers east of here.
The arrival of a heavy downpour saw a temporary cessation of Tuesday's fights.
In accordance with Jakarta's policy, Maluku Governor Saleh Latuconsina officially declared a state of civil emergency in Maluku, taking effect at 00:00 a.m. on Tuesday after a meeting at the headquarters of 733rd Masariku Airborne Battalion later in the day.
Present at the announcement of Gubernatorial Decree No. 1/6/2000 on the civil emergency were the new Pattimura Military chief Col. I Made Yasa, Maluku Police chief Brig. Gen. Firman Gani, provincial legislature speaker Zeth Sahuburua, head of the provincial prosecutors office TH Panggabean and chief of the Navy's Eastern Fleet Security Operation Commodore Sumarjono.
Under the state of civil emergency, the local governor is empowered to take wide measures to stem the violence, including ordering the military to make sweeping raids, ban meetings and put areas off limits to the public.
"A curfew has been set from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and the emergency status also prohibits a gathering of more than 10 people without a clear reason," Firman told reporters in a post- meeting conference.
The government has ruled out any outside military intervention to cope with the worsening bloodbath. Foreign minister Alwi Shihab, who was in Kuala Lumpur, told Associated Press on Tuesday Indonesia would hold firm in rejecting any military assistance from the United Nations or any member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Yasa, who took over from Brig. Gen. Max Tamaela on Monday, said he had called on all military personnel to report to their respective units.
"I order all personnel who have been separated (from their units) to regroup immediately or at least report to the nearest security station," Yasa said shortly after his appointment late on Monday.
He said he gave troops at large until June 30 to report their whereabouts.
Both warring camps in Maluku have accused individuals in the military and police of taking sides and being involved in the sectarian conflict.
Witnesses said security officers were involved in Monday's incidents, which lead to the deaths of Second Sgt. Lasano of the Army's air defense unit and four unidentified soldiers. Dozens of sedatives were found in Lasano's pocket.
Firman, who was former commander of the elite Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob), said that security forces would closely monitor the movements of intruders on the islands.
"We will continue the massive sweeping operation in coordination with existing military units," he said.
Firman took over from Brig. Gen. I Dewa Astika in a modest and abrupt ceremony at Astika's official residence in the Mangga Dua area in the early hours of Tuesday. The ceremony took place during a power blackout, forcing them to conduct the ceremony by candlelight. It was originally scheduled to take place on Thursday.
Meanwhile, thousands of residents started to leave the islands on Tuesday, mostly aboard the KM Dobonsolo, Merpati airliners and Hercules military planes.
People here were also seen thronging the markets and shops to stock up on food supplies, while the town also saw kerosene and gasoline shortages.
Several security posts were abandoned by troops and roadblocks were set up in almost every corner of the town.(49/edt)