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Govt to be stricter against separatism

JAKARTA (JP): Frustrated with the results of a more tolerant approach to the separatist movements in Aceh and Irian Jaya, the government warned on Wednesday it would adopt sterner measures to restore order in both ends of the archipelago.

Minister of Defense Mahfud M.D. said at a hearing with the House of Representatives Commission I for foreign affairs, defense and security herethat he had received calls from many quarters, including religious leaders,suggesting that the government should be tougher on separatist elements.

"The government will no longer apply the persuasive approach in handling mounting separatist activities in the two provinces because independence movements are in fact a subversion," Mahfud said.

He added that the government had debated the new policy in several Cabinet weekly meetings and would issue a presidential decree to formalize it.

Separately, Coordinating Minister for Political, Social and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told reporters after presiding over a limited ministerial meeting that the government was precipitating the implementation of a special autonomy status for both Aceh and Irian Jaya, also known as Papua. The latter will also be divided into several provinces.

"Aceh and Irian Jaya fall under the sovereignty of Indonesia. Although weare out to maintain law and order there, we have no intention to push a violent and security-minded approach," Susilo said.

He also called on foreign countries not to take advantage of the separatist activities in Indonesia.

Mahfud said that in respect of democracy and human rights, the governmenthad been lenient toward the Papua problem because a militaristic or repressive approach was no longer seen as effective in the search for a comprehensive solution.

"The separatist Free Papua Movement could have been quelled immediately through a military operation, but it would break the people's hearts and leave chronic injuries there," he said.

The government, he said, has proven its stiffer stance by ordering the removal of the Morning Star flag in Irian Jaya, based on the fact that it has been used a symbol of independence and has incited the use of violence and intimidation.

At least 30 people, mostly migrant settlers, were killed in the Irian Jaya town of Wamena when thousands of proindependence supporters ran amok after police tried to pull down the separatist flag early this month.

Outgoing Irian Jaya Police chief Brig. Gen. Silvanus Yulian Wenas said that the police have temporarily defy order to begin pulling down the separatist flags to avoid more bloodshed.

"The risk of possible conflict is too big. But we cannot force our way tojust pull out the flags," Wenas told The Jakarta Post by phone from Jayapura on Thursday.

"It is obvious that the proindependence supporters and the Papuan Presidium Council (PDP) seems to ignore government's ruling. They can get very stubborn and just wouldn't understand.

"So for the time being the flags in Jayapura (at the PDP's base in Taman Imbi and the house of PDP chairman Theys Eluay) may still be hoisted but not on the areas where the flags had been lowered," Wenas said.


Minister Mahfud also said the government would likely withdraw unilaterally from the extended humanitarian pause in Aceh since the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) separatist rebels group refused to start talks on peaceful solutions to the problem.

"The government has agreed to extend the humanitarian pause with the hopethat the GAM side is willing to go to the negotiation table," he said.

He hinted that the government had lost its patience and would resort to strict measures if GAM failed to show a commitment to ending the violence and seeking a peaceful solution.

"The talks on a comprehensive solution will never lead to Aceh's secession from Indonesia. The maximum solution is a special autonomy for the province," he said.

He said that the government was deeply concerned about the escalating tension in Aceh over the last three months despite the humanitarian pause and that it was waiting for "the right time to impose strict measures against them (GAM rebels)."

He admitted that the government had suffered losses during the humanitarian pause because the goodwill it had extended to the people had been betrayed by the GAM side. The latter, he said, had also misused this goodwill to strengthen its organization, including its military wing. (rms/edt)


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