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Central Maluku military chief fired over police attack

Jakarta Post - February 6, 2008

M. Azis Tunny, Ambon – A local military chief in Central Maluku was fired Tuesday over last weekend's deadly attack on the local police command complex which claimed three lives and involved his soldiers.

Lt. Col. Dony Hutabarat, the Central Maluku infantry battalion chief, was given his marching orders in an unscheduled ceremony in the Central Maluku capital of Masohi led by local military commander Col. Pratimun.

Hutabarat will be held responsible for the attack that killed two police officers and a soldier on Saturday. Fifty-six police houses were destroyed, as was the home of the Central Maluku police chief, while 11 police cars were destroyed or badly damaged. An extensive trail of destruction was left at the police command complex.

TV footage showed houses leveled to the ground, offices ransacked, burnt-out cars and smoldering offices.

There has been no clear-cut official account of the cause of the incident, which was the latest in a string of similar violent episodes over the past few years involving police and the military across the country.

Police sources said Sunday that the soldiers ran amok following rumors that a soldier had been kidnapped by a police officer who had caught the soldier in bed with the officer's sister.

"His dismissal is part of the punishment for the attack on the Central Maluku police complex on Saturday," Pratimun said.

He said the attack was particularly deplorable because both soldiers and police officers should be role models in resolving differences peacefully.

"Violence does not solve any problem but only brings misery to the public," he said. The situation in Masohi has slowly returned to normal since the police and military made peace in a traditional baku bae ceremony on Monday. Soldiers and police officers were seen hugging each other tearfully.

The ceremony also saw Pattimura Military Commander Maj. Gen. Rasyid Qurnuen Aquary, who oversees security in Maluku, and Maluku Police chief Brig. Gen. M. Guntur Ariyadi symbolically begin to rebuild the houses and buildings destroyed in the attack.

Octavianus Lawalatta, chairman of the Maluku office of the Commission of Human Rights demanded Tuesday firm action against all the soldiers and their leaders involved in the violence.

Lawalatta said that mobilizing military vehicles, as the soldiers had done, required leadership consent with all the legal consequences. "Obviously, the use of military vehicles and weapons in the conflict showed the involvement of some commandant," he said.

He said that the attack had caused trauma to the local residents, especially those who had their houses damaged during the shoot-out.

The Central Maluku Police command complex is located at the center of Masohi, close to civilian residential areas. "Many houses of the local residents were deliberately shot at because many panicky police officers hid in there," Lawalatta said.