National

Governor, police oppose
emergency status in Poso


Muhammad Nafik and Jupriadi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta/Makassar

Central Sulawesi Governor Aminuddin Ponulele and provincial police chief Brig. Gen. Zainal Abidin Ishak have both voiced opposition to the Indonesian Military (TNI)'s call for the imposition of a state of civil emergency or martial law in the restive Poso regency.

Zainal told Antara news agency on Sunday in the Central Sulawesi capital of Palu that security forces did not need to place Poso under a state of emergency to stop the violence in the regency.

A similar opinion was voiced on Saturday by Ponulele, who said the imposition of an emergency status was not urgent in Poso.

""I think what is most urgent is not to impose a state of civil emergency, but quickly to deploy a huge number of reinforcement troops there,"" the governor was quoted by Antara as saying.

Zainal and Ponulele were responding to TNI Commander Gen. Endriartono Sutarto's suggestion that the government declare either a state of civil emergency or martial law in Poso.

Arguing that local civilian authorities were no longer able to prevent violence in the regency, Endriartono said on Thursday the government should not hesitate to impose an emergency status there.

If an emergency status were declared, the TNI chief said, the local authorities would have more power to quell and prevent attacks by, among other actions, imposing a curfew or banning foreigners and other outsiders from Poso.

The general was apparently referring to the rumored presence of several armed foreigners who have entered Poso on tourist visas. Endriartono has ordered the dispatch of at least 12 members of the Army's Special Force (Kopassus) to investigate these reports.

An Italian tourist was killed recently when unidentified gunmen ambushed a passenger bus in Poso.

Similarly, Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono proposed on Friday a new approach to end the spate of recent attacks in Poso.

He said the government was considering the ""proper means"" to stop the violence in the regency. But the minister declined to elaborate on what steps were being considered.

Zainal said that to deal with trouble in the regency, the Poso security forces were implementing an ""integrated joint operation"" involving police and military personnel, along with local residents.

This type of operation is still the proper way to handle the security problems in Poso, he said.

He said that to prevent further attacks, the provincial police had stationed officers in 104 security posts across Poso, concentrating them in those areas particularly vulnerable to unrest.

Meanwhile, Wirabuana Military Commander Maj. Gen. Amirul Isnaini, overseeing Sulawesi island, said on Sunday another company of 125 troops were dispatched to Poso on Saturday.

A string of attacks by still unidentified gunmen has shook Poso since April, leaving numerous people dead, most of them Christians.

These attacks have threatened the peace accord signed last December by Muslim and Christian representatives in the South Sulawesi resort of Malino.

Poso was relatively peaceful for several months after the signing of the historic pact, aimed at ending the sectarian fighting that has left some 2,000 people dead over the last two years.

No arrests have been made since this latest wave of attacks by armed assailants, whose identities and whereabouts remain unknown.

Zainal said the police were seeking to identify the attackers, who he referred to as a ""security disturbance group"".

""We have been gathering evidence in the field, such as spent bullet casings, and talking to residents who have been victimized by the attacks,"" he said.

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