Ultimatum over illegal arms possession
Widespread armed violence in Aceh ahead of the province’s upcoming gubernatorial election has prompted police to take stern actions to curb the possession of illegal arms by civilians.
The arms in question are believed to be remnants of Aceh’s era of conflict, which have not been handed over in an apparent defiance of the peace pact in the province.
In a bid to anticipate armed attacks ahead of the Aceh gubernatorial election, police have issued an ultimatum running until Feb. 20 this year to illegal arms owners to immediately hand over the weapons for destruction.
“If they fail to hand over the illegal arms within the Feb. 20 deadline, we and the Indonesian Military [TNI] have agreed to conduct raids and take firm measures,” Aceh Police chief Insp. Gen. Iskandar Hasan said during a joint roll call to secure the election on Feb. 14.
After the ultimatum, illegal arms owners will be charged with violating Emergency Law No. 12/1951 on the possession of firearms, ammunitions and explosives, which carries a sentence of life in prison and also the death sentence.
According to Iskandar, possession of illegal arms in the hands of civilians could lead to crimes against the general public, such as robbery and murder, while also causing a great deal of public anxiety.
Besides the ultimatum, Iskandar also urged members of the public who were aware of the presence of illegal arms to inform the police or authorities.
“We will protect those who inform us of the presence of illegal arms,” said Iskandar.
He emphasized that police would conduct the 2012 Sikat Rencong operation to secure the election as well as search for illegal arms.
He said police speculated that up to 1,000 firearms were still circulating throughout the community.
“In 2011 alone, I was able to gather and seize around 43 firearms of various types, more than 7,000 rounds of ammunition and dozens of hand grenades from the community,” said Iskandar.
During the signing of the peace pact between the Aceh Freedom Movement (GAM) and the Indonesian government, GAM agreed to hand over 840 firearms, used during the long-standing conflict, to be destroyed as one of the terms of the peace treaty.
However, from the figures agreed upon, many illegal arms are still believed to be held by civilians and not included in the list.
Violence has been escalating in the run up to the gubernatorial election, which is set to be held on April 9.
A number of workers from Java have been killed in a string of mysterious shootings.
Members of the campaign teams for governor candidates have also become the target of shootings.
The Aceh Human Rights Assistance Post (PB-HAM) urged the police to be serious in clamping down on armed crime, which was rife in the province.
“PB-HAM believes security forces, especially the Aceh Police, are not serious in their efforts to eradicate illegal arms possession in Aceh,” Lhokseumawe chapter PB-HAM coordinator Zulfikar Muhammad said.
According to him, weak intelligence was one of the reasons behind ineffective efforts to eradicate armed violence in Aceh.
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