TNI accused of hidden martial law’ in Malukus
The deployment of elite troops to keep the peace may be its attempt to impose martial law in the region, say experts.
The Indonesian armed forces (TNI) has been accused of imposing ‘concealed martial law’ on the trouble-torn Maluku islands after initial attempts to impose it through the proper channels met with widespread opposition.
The TNI has deployed elite troops there as a show of force and to carry out ‘sweeping operations’ against groups inciting religious violence.
The generals made clear that the decision to appoint Major-General Djoko Santoso, who concurrently heads the regional military command there, was aimed at uniting efforts by the authorities to end the protracted conflict.
A state of civil emergency was declared in northern Maluku in June 2000 while an oft-broken peace deal between warring Christian and Muslim extremists was signed in February this year.
Major-General Djoko would now be assisted by a one-star police officer which is in contradiction with the law.
Indonesian law states that the police are in charge of security with the military in charge of defence matters and, if needed, back up the police.
Observers said that it could be the ‘first step’ of a calculated military attempt to impose martial law in the region.
Military analyst Indria Samego of the Indonesian Institute of Social Sciences (Lipi) told The Straits Times: ‘This is really de facto martial law without the legal underpinnings. The military has been given the powers over the police and the civilian administration to end the conflict.’
But contrary to arguments from non-governmental organisations that it could worsen the situation especially in the capital of Ambon, Dr Indria argued that putting the military charge could bring peace in an area where more than 5,000 people have been killed in sectarian violence over the past three years.
‘The sceptics might have got it wrong,’ he said.
‘I think putting in more military troops into the area offers a solution to a conflict that has not been managed well by the police.’
The military is in the process of dispatching the 503rd Airborne Battalion of the elite Army Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad) to the region. Last week, one company was flown in.
Two more companies and a support unit stationed in Malang, East Java, were being prepped for action to join soldiers of the 411st infantry battalion stationed in the Malukus.
If the plan went through without any hiccups, military strength in the territory would stand at less than a thousand to fight an estimated 700 extremists there.
Some, however, doubt whether sending in more soldiers will actually help to reduce tensions.
Political observer Ken Conboy from the Control Risks Group noted: ‘The TNI is obviously taking advantage of a window of opportunity here to end the violence. There has been a lull in the fighting in recent weeks, the area is small, and the number of radicals there finite.
‘But they need to have military superiors that will give clear-cut instructions. That is not yet evident.’
More powers to military
This is really de facto martial law without the legal underpinnings. The military has been given the powers over the police and the civilian administration to end the conflict.’
– Military analyst Indria Samego of the Indonesian Institute of Social Sciences
Solution to the conflict
The sceptics might have got it wrong. I think putting in more military troops into the area offers a solution to a conflict that has not been managed well by the police.’
– Dr Indria