Jakarta – The Coordinating Minister for Politics and Security, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has explained that the government would not be reducing TNI [Indonesian military] and national police levels in Aceh.
“[As a result of] observations undertaken in the field, there is no plan on the part of the government to reduce the size of the forces in Aceh, either the TNI or police”, he said after a cabinet meeting on Thursday September 4 at the State Secretariat building in Jakarta.
The decision [that was taken], according Yudhoyono, is to maintain the momentum and improve the results that have been achieved in the operation. “On the question of its status, we will be considering which [option] is best, in order to maintain the momentum and increase the intensity of the operation”, he said.
In order for this, Yudhoyono continued, there is still a possibility that the government may increase funding for the military operation. “Certainly, if that is a pressing need and for the success of the operation, of course the government will consider [increasing the level of funding]. But he (TNI chief General Endriartono Sutarto) has not yet proposed this to the government”, Yudhoyono reiterated.
At a working meeting with the People’s Representative Assembly Commission I on the previous day, TNI chief [Sutarto] reveled that there would be additional funds provided for the implementation of the military operation.
Yudhoyono explained that the government had never set a target of six months for the military operation to be completed. “What the government did was to put into place a military emergency which would be in force for six months and could then be extended”, he said.
Listening to TNI’s views
Earlier, after attending a seminar of retired TNI and national police armed services officers and army widows in Jakarta, Yudhoyono said that extending or not extending the status of a military emergency and the integrated operation in Aceh will be determined by the government though a political decision.
But the government will listen to the views and recommendations of the TNI and national police who will recommending that the status of a military emergency and the integrated operation be extended.
With regard to the TNI chief’s recommendation to extend the status of a military emergency and the integrated operation Yudhoyono said “The TNI and national police have an interest in [the issue] because they are the one who are taking on the principle role in the integrated operation”.
Furthermore said Yudhoyono, as well as listening to the TNI and national police’s recommendations, the government will also consider other factors. What is clear, is that the integrated operation cannot be disrupted and the momentum to disable the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) must be continued, in order that at the same time the lives of the Acehnese people can be improved. “This is what we are doing”, he explained.
With regard to the hundreds of Acehnese citizens who have sought asylum in Malaysia and Thailand, Yudhoyono explained that coming out of President Megawati Sukarnoputri [recent] overseas visit, it is now certain that the two neighbouring countries [Malaysia and Thailand] will not give political asylum [to the Acehnese] because what is happening in Aceh is an internal affair of Indonesia.
On the question of those [Acehnese] who are already in Malaysia and Thailand, they have been coordination over the issue in order to solve existing problems, including the repatriation of the asylum seekers to Aceh.
“On their repatriation to Aceh, we will look at it in its entirety and not [just] consider them as members of GAM. We will look at the humanitarian issues which caused them to go to Malaysia”, explained Yudhoyono.
With regard to the legal process being pursued by the Swedish government against Hassan Tiro (a GAM leader), Yudhoyono said, “It’s the same as before. The [Indonesian] government’s final position has been handed over the attorney general’s office in Stockholm. We will see what follows, whether it will reach the level of becoming a legal case which will be tried [in court]. However communication with Sweden at the level of the foreign affairs department is continuing.”
Revoke the military emergency
In a press release yesterday, the Centre for Electoral Reform (Cetro) urged the government to immediately end the military emergency status [in Aceh] as a precondition for holding the 2004 general elections.
This appeal was raised in response to the TNI chief’s statement on extending the integrated operation until the 2004 elections. According to Cetro, holding the elections under a military emergency clearly conflicts with the principles of democracy.
Cetro’s view is that if there are concerns that the elections will be disrupted by an armed group, then it is the function of the police which should be optimized. (INU/ely)
[Translated by James Balowski.]