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Army chief calls for efforts to 'socialise alert posts

Antara News - February 12, 1997

Mataram – Army Chief of Staff General R Hartono has called for continued efforts to "socialize" the presence of alert posts to balance the fact that certain quarters in the country were still questioning the legality of their formation.

Speaking to the press here on Sunday, Hartono said actually there was no fundamental problem in the presence of the alert posts.

Hartono, along with Air Force Chief of Staff Vice Marshal Sutria Tubagus, Naval Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Arief Kushariadi and Chief of the Indonesian Police Lt. Gen. Dibyo Widodo, was in Mataram to accompany Armed Forces Chief General Feisal Tanjung during a visit.

During their stay, they performed Idul Fitri (end of the Ramadhan fasting month) prayers along with local Moslems.

Hartono asked whether people needed to know the legal basis if they wanted to report on something that might disrupt economic and social stability.

"If they feel something suspicious, then they must report it immediately," he said.

Without due respect to the law, Hartono said "if we give precedence to law, we will find it hard to solve any problem."

"The law will follow any problem that may arise," he said.

The creation of alert posts was first announced by President Soeharto last month at a meeting with managers of cooperatives owned by Islamic boarding schools (pesantren).

Chief of the Supreme Advisory Council (DPA) Sudomo said after meeting with President Soeharto recently the alert posts were necessary to prevent riots such as had frequenlty happened in the past two years.

The last to occur was the Rengasdengklok riot which occurred on January 30. The accident started when an ethnic Chinese woman scolded Moslem youths making noise at a nearby mosque before dawn.

During the last fasting month of Ramadhan, Moslem youths often wake up neighbors at night to make sure they take their pre-fasting meals.

The mob attacked her house and later vented their anger on places of worship and some private properties.

On Dec 26, 1996 thousands of people went on a rampage to vent their anger over the alleged mistreatment of three local Moslem teachers by some members of the police.

Four people were killed in the rampage which caused Rp 85 billion in material losses and rendered thousands of workers jobless.