Java rioters will be shot on sight, army warns

Indonesia’s national stability at stake, says Abri

THE Indonesian armed forces (Abri) is running out of patience with the mob violence in East Java and has warned that rioters will be shot on sight to quell further unrest.

Abri spokesman, Brigadier-General Slamet Supriadi, told The Straits Times yesterday that the military was at war with the rioters who had over the weekend wreaked havoc in towns of Bangkalan and Pasuruan in East Java.

“If we let this continue, it will affect national stability. So we must take decisive action now,” he said, adding that the shoot-on-sight order was issued on Monday after the East Java regional commander, Major-General Imam Utomo, had reviewed the security situation there.

BG Slamet said that while calm had returned to the riot-prone area, Abri was not taking any chances and security forces would continue to monitor the hotspots.

He said that the military’s shoot-on-sight order would act as a “deterrent” to potential trouble-makers.

“The rioters are becoming increasingly brave and we cannot tolerate more violence. So, we are sending them a very clear signal to back off or face the consequences,” he said.

He brushed aside potential criticism about the hardline approach towards the rioters, saying that it was “protecting the human rights of all Indonesians against a few trouble-makers who aimed at wreaking havoc”.

“We are still standing by our promise to guarantee security for the public,” he stressed.

Hundreds of people went on rampage through Bangkalan on Saturday night destroying stores, a Buddhist temple and a church.

They were apparently upset by the noise from celebrations to mark an award for town-cleanliness held too close to the city’s main mosque.

BG Slamet said that violence also broke out in Pasuruan on Sunday which left several people injured and many houses damaged.

He said that so far 15 people had been arrested on charges of inciting violence and other criminal activities.

East Java police chief, Major-General Sumarsono, said that police had seized knives, sickles, molotov cocktails and several crates of alcohol and brochures about inciting riots.

Police were still investigating the causes of the riots.

Local news reports yesterday quoted government officials as blaming the riots on communists and left-wing activists.

East Java governor Basofi Soedirman told religious leaders that evidence pointed to communist involvement in the riots because a temple, a church, mosques and a copy of the Quran were destroyed.

“I cannot believe such acts were committed by people who have strong religious beliefs,” he said.

“The outbreaks of violence in Bangkalan and Pasuruan were instigated by a movement of left-wing extremists linked with the Indonesian Communist Party.”

Indonesian banned the PKI after a failed coup in 1965 which was blamed on the communists.

Meanwhile, chairman of the Muslim-oriented United Development Party (PPP) has dismissed allegations that PPP supporters were behind the latest riots.

“None of the riots had anything to do with our disappointment with the election results,” he said.

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