‘Impose emergency rule in Ambon’

INDONESIA IN TRANSITION

A SENIOR military legislator yesterday called for a state of emergency in strife-torn Ambon as the armed forces (Abri) sought to end deadly clashes between Christians and Muslims on the eastern island.

Lieut-General Hari Sabarno, Deputy Speaker of Parliament and Abri faction chief, said that he had proposed the measure – which could lead to martial law being imposed – to other legislators given the rapidly deteriorating conditions there due to the ongoing sectarian violence.

“The situation is serious in Ambon. It can only get worse unless the military is given the ‘blessing’ to crack down on the rioters with the necessary laws to support their actions. We need to have some sort of declaration that Ambon is in a state of emergency, so our soldiers can act decisively without facing all kinds of charges and criticism for their actions,” he said.

Ambon has teetered on the brink of anarchy as Christians and Muslims battled with Molotov cocktails, machetes and arrows. Troops have shot rioters in an attempt to quell violence.

Intelligence sources said Abri was making contingency plans for a worst-case scenario involving widespread breakdown of law and order, particularly in the run-up to and after June’s polls. This could even extend to imposing martial law – bringing politics round full circle to the beginning of the Suharto era.

But Lt-Gen Hari sought to downplay that possibility and maintained that Ambon was not being used as a test case for any such move.

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