Dili – Col. Salamat Sidabutar took over his new post as chief of the Wiradharma military command yesterday and pledged to crack down harder on Fretilin separatists.
Salamat, who replaced Col. Mahidin Simbolon, received a command baton from the Udayana regional military chief of staff, Brig. Gen. Syahrir M.S., who led a hand-over ceremony on behalf of the region's military commander, Maj. Gen. Abdul Rivai.
Rivai was in Jakarta to attend a ceremony for the handover of the post of Army chief of staff from Gen. R. Hartono to Gen. Wiranto.
Rivai told Salamat, in a speech delivered by Syahrir, to make his troops more alert for security threats from the separatists.
Four people were killed and 24 were injured earlier this month when suspected Fretilin rebels ambushed a truck carrying soldiers and police who were on election safeguard duty in Quelikai, 130 kilometers east of here.
There has been a recent spate of attacks, allegedly by separatists, on police and civilian targets in the former Portuguese colony.
Salamat said he would maintain order according to the law.
"Mentally and physically we have to be prepared for security duties, lest we become victims (of the rebels)," said Salamat, a former group commander in the Army Special Forces.
He said his quest for success would rely greatly on people in East Timor trying to uphold national unity.
Salamat played down Fretilin's strength, saying that it still had few members.
"I don't believe their strength has increased. It's common that a disruptive group lives in a society," he said.
Governor Abilio Soares, his deputy J. Haribowo, chairman of the province's legislative council Antonio Freitas Parada, East Timor police chief Col. Jusuf Mucharam and Catholic leaders attended yesterday's ceremony.