General Says Separatists Could Be Shot on Spot

JAKARTA ~ The military chief overseeing security in restive Maluku province has told his soldiers they may shot separatists on the spot if necessary, his spokesman said.

The move comes after soldiers shot and wounded a man who raised an outlawed separatist flag near them at a village not far from Ambon, the capital of Maluku, on Saturday.

“The head of the regional command (Major General Rasyid Qurnuen Aquary) has told his troops to now act firmly against anyone engaging in separatist actions, and if need be, shoot them on the spot,” the Maluku military spokesman, Major Sukriyanto, said on Wednesday.

“He is of the view that separatists can no longer be tolerated.”

A soft approach to them had made them more brazen and encouraged them to continue agitating, Sukriyanto added.

On Saturday a 19-year-old man hoisted a flag of the outlawed South Maluku Republic (RMS) on a tree near where soldiers were working. The man was found to be in possession of four more outlawed flags, a mask and a bayonet inside the bag he was carrying.

Several people from the same area are in prison awaiting trial after they took part in a traditional dance to welcome visiting President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, but suddenly unfurled the outlawed flags last June.

The incident led to the removal of the province’s police and military chief and their replacement.

RMS was crushed by Jakarta shortly after it was declared in 1950, but the movement supporting it was revived after the fall of authoritarian president Suharto in 1998.

Ambon and other islands in the Maluku chain have also been the scene of a sectarian conflict that has left more than 5,000 Christians and Muslims dead since January 1999.

Government-sponsored peace talks in 2002 failed to end the violence and sporadic clashes and tensions persist.

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