Tuesday, July 10, 2007

'Govt must purge separatism'

Sunday, July 01, 2007
Wahyoe Boedidharma, The Jakarta Post, Malang, Jakarta

The Indonesian government should take harsh action against all separatist movements after a group of people tried to wave the South Maluku Republic (RMS) flag in front of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in the Maluku provincial capital of Ambon on Friday, said Islamic leader Din Syamsuddin.

RMS is a separatist movement with Christianity as its base.

In the Republic of Indonesia it is a criminal offense to show support for any separatist movement. It is also a criminal offense to raise or wave in public a separatist flag -- even in a private home.

Chairman of the Muhammadiyah Islamic organization, Din Syamsuddin, said the RMS flag-waving incident was particularly pathetic because it took place during a presidential visit.

"The government must take harsh actions against all separatist movements including RMS," Din said.

"The government seems half-hearted about crushing RMS as it has allowed it to continue, disguised under other names."

"If the government maintains this approach, the separatist movement will continue to flourish and finally destroy our national unity."

Din was in Malang to attend graduation day at the Malang Muhammadiyah University.

He said the government's approach toward obvious separatism was still weak but did not say the government's intermediary process was weak.

"There is no other way to purge separatist movements other than by taking legal action against them," he said.

In Jakarta, Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Marshall Djoko Suyanto said the need for greater security arrangements during the presidential visit had been underestimated.

"We carried out an immediate evaluation Friday and we found carelessness as well as lack of anticipation or planned initiatives from security forces," Djoko said.

He was accompanied by National Police chief Gen. Sutanto at a press conference covering the incident and said TNI and the police would carry out a thorough evaluation on the security system to ensure local administration officials had fully prepared for the visit.

"We will scrutinize whether there has been coordination between local administration, police and TNI, how many personnel are being deployed and whether they had followed the standard procedure for a presidential visit," Djoko said.

"This incident embarrassed the President especially as there were many foreign envoys present at the ceremony.

"It shouldn't have happened at all."

Djoko said although the separatists were unarmed, they were carrying symbols of separatism.

Sutanto said police had arrested 31 suspects and confiscated a flag and some documents.

"We are also carrying out an internal evaluation with those directly responsible for security arrangements and those found guilty would be punished," he said.

"There is a standard procedure for every VIP visit.

"This accident would not have happened if officers followed the procedure."

With regard to the police force's intelligence operation and its ability to identify and prevent such incidents, Sutanto said security forces were made aware of the possibility of a demonstration but they had underestimated those involved.

"They did all they could; however, the protesters posed as dancers," Sutanto said.

"It is true that they were careless, but I don't think that they were not working at all."

TNI's chief spokesman Rear Marshall Sagom Tamboen said he dismissed allegations TNI intelligence was getting weak.

"We cannot see the function of the military intelligence as separated from other intelligence agencies," Sagom said.

"The public just has to be patient and wait for an evaluation before passing judgment." (02)

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