Strike hard against the law breakers, Abri told

Military needs to be on high alert, says Suharto.

PRESIDENT Suharto yesterday called on the Indonesian military to step up its readiness and strike hard against groups causing social unrest in the country ahead of the presidential election.

“The military must take firm action without hesitation towards whatever and whoever that violates the law,” he said in a speech to senior armed forces (Abri) commanders at the end of a three-day annual meeting.

He said that the military needed to be on high alert in the run-up to the presidential election next month given Indonesia’s deteriorating economic situation which could be exploited by some groups to destabilise the country ahead of the presidential polls next month.

For a second consecutive day, Mr Suharto said that he was “very concerned” with certain groups, which he did not name, determined to see the disintegration of the nation” and urged the military to be on high alert.

He said: “In this environment, there are signs that certain parties are using this chance to achieve their political aims which has so far not been achieved through democratic and constitutional means.

“To face all of this, I call for the reactivation of military alert posts.” These alert posts refer to a system for heightened intelligence gathering.

The President’s comments take place against a backdrop of unrest in more than 10 towns in Central and East Java and in South Sulawesi, where riots have broken out over increasing food prices.

Demonstrations have also taken place in Jakarta over the past week.

Abri chief General Feisal Tanjung said that the military was ready to deal with any problems which might arise in the run-up to the 1,000-member People’s Consultative Assembly which would elect a president and vice-president.

“As a result of the monetary crisis and the scaling up of political tensions, the conditions in the lead-up to the general assembly have prompted Abri to be on the alert and ready,” he said.

He was speaking to reporters after announcing a military reshuffle here where he will make way for army chief, General Wiranto, to head the 475,000-strong armed forces.

Up to 25,000 troops from various Abri units, including the elite Special Forces, are on standby in the capital to deal with any disturbances which might arise.

Military sources believe that the potential for violence was “greatest in Jakarta, Central and East Java”.

A senior intelligence officer told The Straits Times recently: “These are all pressure points and we anticipate localised demonstrations and conflicts in these areas in the next few weeks.

“If the military is not prepared to deal with them, the bigger the chances of riots breaking out.”

He noted that while Abri was expecting problems, it did not anticipate that the matter would be on a large scale or a national level.

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