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Police face dismissal if they fail to shoot

Indonesian Observer - February 22, 1999

Ujungpandang – Regional police chiefs in Indonesia will be sacked if they defy an order from Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI) Commander General Wiranto to shoot rioters and criminals on the spot, says an official.

National Police Chief General Roesmanhadi yesterday said all military personnel must obey all instructions issued by their superiors.

"The shoot on the spot order is a must for all police officers in Indonesia, as it will boost the National Police's dignity," he said in South Sulawesi capital of Ujungpandang.

Roesmanhadi said wild demonstrators and rioters need to be shot because they tend to damage public facilities, burn down police stations and threaten political stability.

Vandalism by angry mobs over the past 12 months has left 80 police stations torched and hundreds more damaged.

"We cannot let them do it again. Apart from jeopardizing our officers, they also endanger citizens. I think enough is enough. They are already out of line, so I've ordered my troops to obey what the ABRI commander said. It's for the sake of national safety," Roesmanhadi said.

He claimed the shoot on the spot order is allowed by a 1990 United Nations convention, which stipulates that police must be granted necessary authority to conduct their work.

Commenting on recent riots in various areas of the sprawling archipelago, General Roesmanhadi admitted they are related because the same modus operandi has been used to spark them.

"The provocateurs enter the area a few months before the riot. They're like a reconnaissance group for a company and they start searching for potential conflict points in the area. If they find one, they'll encourage it to become the trigger of the riot. If they succeed, then they move on to make [riots] in another place."

Indonesia has been plagued by a wave of violence in recent months, much of it involving organized religious and ethnic riots, killing hundreds of people.

Officials have blamed the riots on "unspecified instigators", who many analysts believe are linked to former president Soeharto. However, the corpulent ex-leader has denied all allegations.

Analysts say the main riot instigators could be two officials of the Pemuda Pancasila youth group - Yorrys and Yapto.

Cities that have borne the brunt of recent religious riots between Muslims and Christians include Ambon in Maluku, Kupang in East Nusa Tenggara, as well as Ketapang neighborhood in Jakarta.

Roesmanhadi warned that provocateurs will be targeting South Sulawesi, Bali, East Java and North Sumatra, to instigate more riots.

"Based on data and analysis [those areas] ... are the most vulnerable to further rioting ... I therefore come here to remind all sides to remain alert and avert provocation by instigators," he said.

He claimed it's difficult to capture provocateurs, due to a lack of evidence found by military authorities. The police chief argued that provocateurs "disappear" and leave the scenes of incidents soon after violence erupts.

"They set up a modus operandi one or two months before the incidents. They are in place to sow the seeds of division and to set the date for the riots, then they just begin to launch provocative actions," he added.

Analysts say the military could capture the instigators if it was serious about stopping the riots. Recently a group of provocateurs was kicked out of Pekanbaru, Riau province, for planning to incite a mass riot.

Police never bothered to arrest the youths, who were allegedly from Pemuda Pancasila. Also many Pemuda Pancasila youths were allegedly detained when leaving Ambon after the January mass riots, but police officials are yet to clarify the matter.