Abri warns of further disturbances

Certain groups out to disrupt Jakarta presidential election, says Feisal

INDONESIA’S military chief has warned of a campaign to disrupt the People’s Consultative Council (MPR) which meets next March to elect the country’s president and vice-president.

General Feisal Tanjung said that certain groups which had attempted to foil the recent general election would strike again in the run-up to the MPR session to sow national discord.

“There is a strong possibility that they will use the situation prior to the MPR’s general assembly next year to push for unconstitutional reforms in the country,” news reports yesterday quoted him as saying.

Gen Tanjung did not name the groups involved.

The Indonesian armed forces (Abri) had earlier identified “left-wing infiltrators” as being responsible for the riots during last month’s election campaign.

The three-week campaign saw clashes between supporters of the ruling Golkar party, the United Development Party and the Indonesian Democratic Party. There were also sporadic clashes between party supporters and the security forces.

Speaking at a ceremony to mark the transfer of the army chief’s post to General Wiranto, Gen Tanjung said that he had instructed the new army commander to safeguard the 1,000-strong MPR assembly, which is also responsible for drawing the five-year state guidelines.

“Prepare your soldiers so that they will not make procedural mistakes on the job,” he said.

Amid criticism from observers that the armed forces had been slow to anticipate riots, senior officers like Abri’s chief of socio-political affairs Syarwan Hamid had conceded recently that the military found it difficult to cope with riots.

“We find ourselves in a dilemma,” Lieutenant-General Hamid said in April this year. “If we move to handle something too quickly, we are then accused of interfering.

If we play by the rules or follow procedures, then we are left out or lose out.”

The Media Indonesia daily yesterday quoted Gen Wiranto, a former commander of the 27,000- strong Army Strategic Reserve Command, as saying that Abri had made preparations to anticipate security disturbances in the run-up to the MPR session.

“We have short, medium and long-term plans to anticipate difficulties,” said the 50-year-old four-star general who replaced General Hartono as army chief.

He also noted that conflicts between various groups posed a serious threat to national stability.

“This conflict mainly appears in the form of uncontrolled political activities such as rallies,” he said, adding that the public should avoid such activity.

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