Sunday, June 24, 2007

Pasuruan shootings 'not easily resolved'

Friday, June 08, 2007
Alvin Darlanika Soedarjo, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono said Thursday that the Pasuruan land dispute and subsequent shootings involving the Indonesian Military (TNI) and civilians would take time to resolve and was not a sign that the military has resisted reform.

"We all regret the shootings in Pasuruan. However, a cause of the problem is our congested population and limited space, especially on the island of Java," Juwono said after attending a conflict prevention seminar at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).

The shooting in the village of Alas Tlogo in Pasuruan, East Java, involving Navy Marines was triggered by a land dispute and left four locals dead and eight wounded.

Juwono said the public should allow more time for the TNI and Navy chiefs of staff to handle the issue according to the law.

"We are dissecting this issue one by one," he said, adding that TNI has been involved in multiple land disputes dating back to the 1960s.

"The Defense Ministry and the National Land Agency (BPN) have been collaborating to solve the conflict.

"BPN head Joyo Winoto came to the Defense Ministry about three months ago to monitor the development of the problem, especially matters involving the assets of TNI, such as land near military headquarters, airports or other military facilities."

Juwono said there had been discussions on relocating military training facilities to outside Java, the costs of which his ministry would cover.

The minister also said that accusations made by several NGOs that the Pasuruan shootings signaled TNIs inability and unwillingness to reform were baseless.

Whether top Navy officials face questioning by the National Commission on Human Rights over the shootings for potential gross human rights violations, he said, would be decided upon by the TNI chief.

"According to military law, the Navy military police is investigating the case," Juwono said. There are currently 13 Marines named as suspects in the shootings.

Indonesian Military chief Air Chief Marshall Djoko Suyanto was quoted as saying by that he had not yet allowed the officers involved in the incident to be summoned by the human rights commission because the investigation was still ongoing.

Riwanto Tirtosudarmo, a LIPI expert on conflict resolution, told The Jakarta Post that a misuse of firearms had been committed by the Marines in Pasuruan.

"How come the firearms, which are supposedly used for protection, were used to kill people?" he asked, adding that the recent events highlighted the lax enforcement of a military code of ethics for weapons use.

"Many people in Indonesia tend to take the law into their own hands. TNI is still accustomed to its behavior during the New Order era," he said.

Meanwhile, in Manado, Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal Herman Prayitno said that all land owned by the Air Force would be certified in order to prevent potential clashes with locals.

"There are still many areas with the potential for conflict, but we are trying to solve these issues through peaceful means," he said during a parachute competition in Manado, North Sulawesi.

If peaceful means fail to resolve the land disputes, Herman added, then a process involving BPN, local administrations and the community would be kick-started. (02)

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