Police ‘to go on offensive in Aceh’


But some see threat as going against official sanction.

INDONESIAN police yesterday warned that they would crack down on armed separatists in Aceh following a recent spate of attacks against security forces.

In what analysts describe as a move without the official sanction of President Abdurrahman Wahid, who had opposed earlier military attempts to go on the offensive in Aceh, national police chief Rusmanhadi said that his men there could not afford to be on the defensive given the mounting attacks they were facing from rebels.

“We will not yield to armed civilians in Aceh,” the Media Indonesia daily yesterday quoted him as saying.

“They will be dealt with sternly. We need to increase our presence and at the same time change the pattern of operations.”

His comments came against a backdrop of increasing violence in Aceh, where more than 300 people have been killed this year, up to 80 of them security personnel.

Sources told The Straits Times that a team of senior police officers sent to Aceh had advised Gen Rusmanhadi that it was “time to go on the offensive” given that there was “a lack of respect for institutions of the state” in the province.

“People are accusing security forces of indiscriminate killings,” said a one-star police general. “But what about the ordinary policeman who gets killed for doing his duty? He also has a wife and family. We need to show these separatists that they need to respect the law and we will use force to counter force if necessary.”

Such thinking is in direct opposition to Mr Abdurrahman’s initiatives, which place dialogue with the rebels – not the use of force – as a priority.

Army generals, like their counterparts in the police, have been increasingly frustrated with what they see as the President’s “appeasement overtures” to the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and his refusal to consider a state of emergency in the territory.

The decision by conservative generals to up the ante on Aceh is not only because of rising violence there.

Political observers said it was yet another attempt by the military and police to flex their muscles for other reasons. The timing of Gen Rusmanhadi’s warning coincides with a “fat brief” the President and the Attorney-General’s Office received on alleged police involvement in drug trading in Jakarta.

Mr Abdurrahman, furious with the report, ordered the police chief to investigate the allegations.

Diplomatic sources said resentment towards Mr Abdurrahman increased when he ordered TNI chief Widodo last weekend to sack military spokesman Sudradjat for making “inappropriate statements” on Aceh.

But the TNI has yet to follow through as senior officers insist “there are no justifiable grounds” at this time to for his removal.

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