Abri to go all out to make good its guarantee of public safety during polls

THE influential Indonesian Armed Forces (Abri) has guaranteed public safety and security in the face of increasing mob violence during the polls campaign.

News reports yesterday quoted Abri spokesman Brigadier-General Slamet Supriadi as saying that the military would “make an all-out effort to back up this guarantee”.

He told reporters: “The people can go about their daily business without fear.

“Abri will be able to protect the public from any disturbances in the campaign period right up to voting day.”

Giving his assessment of the hustings which began on April 27, he warned that as the election campaign was in its final stages, political tension was running high and public fear was rising.

He said: “We urge all contestants to shun campaigns which scare people, cause traffic jams and endanger lives.

“Contenders should not provoke each other.”

The election campaign has been marred by violence, mainly involving clashes between supporters of the ruling Golkar party and the Muslim-based United Development Party (PPP) in Java.

According to Attorney-General Singgih, the Election Supervision Committee’s chairman, Golkar, PPP and the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) had all violated campaign rules.

Traffic offences topped the list of violations, followed by the removal of party flags.

Abri disclosed that up to last Thursday, 73 people had died in campaign violence and accidents.

The military documented 914 cases of poll violations, 145 of which did not involve supporters of the three parties.

The Abri spokesman said that this proved that there were “anti-establishment groups” infiltrating rallies to foil the polls. He declined to name these groups but said that they were distributing leaflets containing provocative statements.

He added that Abri had also anticipated which would be the sites of potential riots, particularly those areas where party supporters were likely to pass through in large numbers.

Military sources told The Sunday Times that the key areas which the military would “monitor closely” in the last stages of the campaign were Jakarta and Central Java.

A two-star general said: “These places are heating up.”

Jakarta has been rife with rumours that the final stage of the campaign in the capital is likely to be “explosive”, with observers saying that trouble could arise from “an ad hoc group comprising pseudo Megawati loyalists and other radical elements”.

Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri is the ousted leader of the PDI.

A military insider said: “They want to embarrass President Suharto and his government by disrupting the election. The best place to do it is Jakarta because of the international attention it will receive.”

Observers believe that Abri’s latest warning was a sign that the security and intelligence community took these threats seriously.

The military has beefed up its presence, particularly in Jakarta, where groups of soldiers armed with light assault weapon have been deployed throughout the capital.

One analyst said: “I have never seen Abri deployed so meticulously here in the last 30 years. They are not taking any chances this election.”

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