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Gus Dur supports shoot-on-sight policy

Straits Times - February 12, 1999

Jakarta – Influential Muslim leader Abdurrahman Wahid has warned that a social revolution in Indonesia could claim up to three million lives and all parties should therefore work to prevent the possibility of such a national disaster, the Indonesian Observer newspaper reported yesterday. "Considering incidents of lawlessness that have occurred in many parts of the country, Indonesia is now on the brink of a social revolution.

"And if a social revolution really does happen, it would be a truly massive national tragedy," Mr Abdurrahman, who is better known as Gus Dur, was quoted as saying.

He was speaking in Jakarta at an interactive dialogue on "Preventing Social Revolutions". Other speakers were National Mandate Party Secretary, General Faisal Basri, National Resilience Institute Governor, Lieutenant-General Agum Gumelar, and former Environment Minister Sarwono Kusumaatmadja.

The Muslim leader's estimation on the number of possible casualties was based on a comparison to the 1949 social revolution in China. The upheaval at the time claimed about 12 million lives, said the Indonesian Observer.

"If the population in Indonesia is a fifth of China's, then a social revolution in Indonesia would claim about two to three million lives," he said. Therefore firm measures were needed from security officers to stop trouble-makers from trying to disrupt security and order, he said.

Such action would also reduce the level of violence, which has increased drastically in many areas across the country in recent months, he added.

Mr Abdurrahman, who is head of Indonesia's largest Muslim organisation Nahdlatul Ulama, voiced support for the policy of Armed Forces Commander General Wiranto to shoot on sight anybody trying to disrupt security and order.

The policy was unpopular, particularly among human-rights activists, but was necessary to save the nation from bankruptcy, he said. "I know the military will be criticised in implementing the policy," he was quoted as saying in the newspaper.

Mr Sarwono agreed with the Muslim leader that a social revolution could still haunt Indonesia because people no longer respected the legal system. That was because there were still a number of incidents involving military officials that had not been satisfactorily resolved, he said.

"How could people believe in the legal system if there are still many cases that remain unfinished?" asked Mr Sarwono, referring to a number of cases involving military personnel, such as student massacres, kidnappings and other killings.

Therefore, he urged military leaders to be sensitive to the people's demands by solving a number of cases, particularly those which have strong political aspects involving a number of military personnel.

"If the military can solve such problems, I believe the people will back its policies in trying to overcome a number of security problems."

The dialogue on Wednesday was organised by the Forum for Political Journalists Discussion and the Alumni Association of Bandung's Padjadjaran University.

Gen Faisal said a social revolution could only be avoided if tensions among the masses were eased while the political elite peacefully resolved their differences among themselves.