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Megawati says martial law achieves targets JAKARTA - President Megawati Soekarnoputri said on Friday that the martial law in Aceh province would not last long and claimed the ongoing military operation to crush Acehnese separatist rebels was on the right track, despite reports of many civilian casualties. However, she did not say when the much-criticized military operation that started on May 19 would be put to a halt.
Military leaders have hinted that the martial law, which was initially planned to last six months, would likely be extended another six months until the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) was wiped out permanently. Speaking at the Annual Session of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) in Jakarta, Megawati also said the government was ready to resume peace talks to end the long-standing fighting after an historic truce with rebel leaders collapsed in May.
"The integrated operation has now gone on for 76 days and although a number of targets have been achieved, the government will continue evaluating its effectiveness," she said. The President also gave high praise to the military and the Acehnese people who had worked hand-in-hand to fight the GAM rebels. "Despite their shortages, soldiers and police have done their best to carry out the military and the law enforcement operations," she said.
Megawati also claimed security improvements, supported by details, in several other troubled areas across the country, including Papua, Maluku and Poso, Central Sulawesi, despite the fact that sporadic attacks continued to erupt. Acehnese legislator Ghazali Abbas, who has been staunchly critical of the martial law, slammed Megawati's speech, saying it was aimed at maintaining her popularity ahead of the 2004 presidential election.
"This (her speech) was delivered for her political interests on the eve of the presidential election, but it is contradictory to what is actually happening in the field. Let the Acehnese people assess the President's speech," he said, pointing out that the military offensive had claimed many civilian victims. Otto Syamsuddin Ishak, a sociologist at Syah Kuala University in Banda Aceh, also criticized the military operation -- imposed under Law No. 23/1959 on state emergency -- which was not proportionately accompanied by a humanitarian operation.
Tens of thousands of displaced Acehnese people face food shortages and health problems, while their children attend school in mosques and temporary tents -- since over 500 schools were burned down by unidentified arsonists and are yet to be rebuilt. Besides which, he said, hundreds of suspected rebels had been interrogated by authorities without the presence of legal counsel. In the most recent development, at least four rebels were killed and two soldiers injured on Friday.
Spokesman for the military operation Lt. Col. Ahmad Yani Basuki said in Lhokseumawe, North Aceh, that the four armed rebels were shot dead in separate gunfights in Aceh Jaya, Aceh Besar, North Aceh and Pidie regencies. Following the gunfights, seven rebels were arrested, three others surrendered and three AK-47 rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition were confiscated, he said.
Yani said the military in Aceh Besar was still searching for Lampasi Engking village head Subhi, 45, who was abducted by a group of rebels on Wednesday night. Separately, Indonesian Military (TNI) Commander Gen. Endriartono Sutarto stressed on Friday that the military would intensify their offensive and wipe out the armed rebels as quickly as possible, targeting rebel leaders to weaken the separatist movement and lower morale.
He confirmed that the military had shot dead high-profile GAM spokesman Tengku Jamaika, alias Jamaludin Kandang. Spokesman for the administration of martial law in Aceh Col. Ditya Soedarsono said authorities were offering Rp 60 million (US$7,650) for information leading to the capture of a senior rebel commander in Aceh province. Entering the 76th day of military operation, the TNI has killed at least 587 people they claimed were rebels. More than 100 civilians and 40 police and soldiers have also been killed.

Posted in Aceh conflict @ 02 August 2003 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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