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4,000 military personnel deployed in Irian Jaya exercise

BBC Monitoring - January 8, 2003

Surabaya – In the midst of a heated situation following the recent shooting of civilians, about 4,000 TNI Indonesian National Military Forces personnel from the navy, air force and army were mobilized to Papua Irian Jaya as part of their 2003 amphibious operations programme.

The troops were sent off yesterday (7 January) by the navy's Eastern Fleet commander, Rear Admiral I Wayan Rampe, from the Ujung Docks in Surabaya. Also present were East Java Police Chief Inspector-General Heru Susanto and V/Brawiaya Military Area Commander Major-General Sikky.

Apart from the 4,000 personnel, the exercise was also being supported by navy, air force and army hardware assets. Eastern Fleet provided 21 warships, two CN/Casa aircraft, two N-22/Nomad aircraft, two Bell and one Bolkow helicopters, with the air force providing four aircraft.

Rear Admiral Rampe told reporters after the parade that the departure of these personnel to Papua was a training exercise and had nothing to do with incidents involving the shooting of civilians. "This is purely an exercise to improve the professionalism of our soldiers. It has nothing to do with conditions in Papua. Anyway, conditions in Papua are extremely conducive and that is why we are training there"...

The rear admiral continued to explain that up until now, exercises had only been conducted in Ambon, Sulawesi and Sumatra, mostly in the Java Sea and very seldom in Papua. They not specified, presumably the Papuan people complained to TNI that combat exercises were always conducted outside Papua and the Papuan community expected exercises to be conducted in the waters around Papua.

So, he said, the Papuan governor and other public figures had requested that an exercise be carried out in Papua so that the soldiers would gain plenty of experience. "So this exercise has the stamp of approval from the Papuan governor and other community leaders and in fact we have invited the public to observe the progress of the exercise," he said. Rampe denied that the exercise was a TNI "show of force"...

The exercise would be spread across 3,000 kilometres of water, something that has never been done by TNI personnel. "There will be no landings, it will all be carried out at sea," he said. The Eastern Fleet Commander also gave instructions that if any foreign fishing boats were stopped and did not have the appropriate documentation, then they were to be sunk. This was the case a short time ago when a passing vessel from New Zealand was almost bombed.

[Source: Media Indonesia, Jakarta, in Indonesian.]