YES to logistical support for troops and humanitarian aid, NO to foreign military intervention, as it will affect national pride

International help to tackle sectarian violence in Malukus? Indonesia responds: YES to logistical support for troops and humanitarian aid NO to foreign military intervention, as it will affect national pride.

INDONESIAN Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab said Jakarta was open to humanitarian assistance in the strife-torn Maluku islands, but maintained that foreign military intervention was a no go.

Speaking yesterday at a public lecture in Singapore on recent developments in Indonesia, he said that logistical support would help Indonesian troops overcome the on-going sectarian violence in the province.

“We want positive intervention. Our security forces need ships and helicopters to make it easier for them to deal with the situation there,” he said.

Help to rehabilitate the battered province would be one step forward to achieving any reconciliation between Muslims and Christians in the province, he said at the lecture organised by the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies (IDSS).

Responding to a comment that the international community would not be too forthcoming in helping Indonesia if Jakarta placed limits on what they could do, Mr Alwi replied: “I doubt whether neighbouring countries like Singapore can refuse us such military equipment.”

He maintained that direct military involvement in the Maluku islands was not possible given the nationalist response it would generate. “Military intervention will not be accepted by our legislators and Indonesians in general … It will affect our national pride,” he said.

Mr Alwi, who was asked to address the Maluku issue at least twice during the question-and-answer session, said communal violence in the Maluku islands was “driven by local economic disparities and intensified by the presence of forces from other parts of Indonesia”.

The violence which started early last year has left nearly 4,000 people dead and has resulted in more than half a million refugees fleeing the area.

Violence escalated sharply after more than 2,000 members of a militant Muslim jihad force sailed from Java to the Malukus three months ago to support Muslims there.

Turning to another thorny issue – the former province of East Timor – Mr Alwi said his government was working to end militia attacks by closing down refugee camps in West Timor.

He disclosed that Indonesia would call on international agencies, including the United Nations, to help set up a registry for those who planned to return to East Timor.

“By closing down the camps, the source of all those problems could be abated.”

The border area between East and West Timor has seen an upsurge in militia activity and periodic incursions.

A Nepalese UN peacekeeper died and three others were wounded on Thursday after a skirmish with a group of pro-Jakarta militia.

It was the second skirmish between UN forces and the militia to have resulted in the death of a peacekeeper after a New Zealander was killed last month.

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