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Jakarta tightens grip on Aceh and Papua JAKARTA - Indonesia's military (TNI) showed signs this week of tightening its hold on Aceh and Papua, two resource-rich regions at either ends of the sprawling archipelago that have voiced separatist sentiments and seen much violence in recent years. On Thursday, military chief General Endriartono Sutarto said he would immediately dispatch four fresh battalions, or 2,000 troops, to Papua. The move followed violent anti-government protests in Papua that have killed five in the past two weeks.
At the western end of the country, despite claims that soldiers have killed more than 800 Aceh rebels and captured hundreds more in the past 3 1/2 months, top officials said there was no plan to reduce the size of the Indonesian forces there. The TNI currently has 35,000 soldiers, while the police have around 14,000 men serving in Aceh. Instead, Security Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said there was a possibility the government might even give the military more cash for its Aceh campaign.
He said: 'From our point of view, there is no plan yet to reduce our forces in Aceh. We are still mulling over that operation's status, including whether or not we need to intensify activities.' Gen Endriartono also hinted that soldiers may continue operations in the province until April, well beyond the initial decree of six months that will end in November.
The military, which faded into the background slightly after the downfall of former president Suharto, has regained some lustre since President Megawati Sukarnoputri took office in mid-2001. Since then, it has secured new weapons and engaged in a controversial campaign in Aceh. Critics argue that the military is not merely establishing peace or defending the country's interests in those two regions. It may actually be fighting an altogether different battle, one where financial resources are at stake, they say.
The TNI allegedly has vast business interests in both regions. A Jakarta-based foreign observer said that given the military's meagre budget, it needed additional sources of income to pay, house, feed and arm its soldiers adequately, and ensure that its weaponry was upgraded from time to time. The military, he said, either protects or outright owns shares in mining and logging projects throughout the country, and offers security services to big companies operating in both Aceh and Papua.
Dr Benny Giay, an activist with Papuan human-rights group Elsham, said there was a possibility that the military had directed provocateurs in Mimika regency last month to create disturbances and justify the deployment of more troops. He argued: 'Many Papuans fear the military is here to rob our natural resources and run businesses.' Other observers said as long as the military was preoccupied with running side businesses, it would never become a professional force.
The larger question now is how Indonesia's military is going to move away from Suharto-era-style crackdowns. The foreign observer said: 'The system is still feudalistic. Officers maintain patronage systems with their subordinates.' As long as that remained, the expert said, Indonesia's military was still a long way from real reforms.



Posted in Violence @ 06 September 2003 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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