Ambon Police gear up for RMS anniversary

The Jakarta Post, April 15, 2006 Ambon Police gear up for RMS anniversary M. Azis Tunny, The Jakarta Post, Ambon Ambon Police will carry out a wide-ranging search for separatists and militants ahead of the anniversary of the self-proclaimed South Maluku Republic (RMS) on April 25. Ambon and Lease Islands Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Leonidas Braksan said they wanted to avoid a repeat of the events of April 25, 2004, in which at least 38 people were killed in a riot sparked by separatist pressures. "We started the sweep this week in prime locations. It will be random and no prior notice will be given as to when or where it will be conducted," Leonidas told The Jakarta Post on Thursday. He said police wanted to ensure residents could go about their daily activities without fear, adding the search targeted particular groups like Mujahidin and the separatist Maluku Sovereignty Front (FKM). "These two groups will be targeted considering some of their members are still on the loose," Leonidas said. He said police were still looking for Arsyad, a Muslim cleric and Mujahidin leader who is thought to be the mastermind of a number of terror acts. Dozens of the group's members have been arrested and tried on terrorism charges; others are awaiting trial. Police are closely monitoring members of the FKM, particularly with the emergence of new leaders after Alex Manuputty, the exiled chairman of the group, was sentenced to three years' jail for treason. He fled to the U.S. in 2003, before sentencing could be carried out. Moses Tunakotta, the group's secretary-general, took over from Alex until he was imprisoned for treason following the 2004 riot, which broke out in Ambon after an RMS anniversary event. After Moses was jailed, Simon Saiya headed the RMS transition government, a new organization established to replace the FKM. The organization was set up by its representatives in the Netherlands, who found Alex's fight for the RMS' causes lacked conviction. Simon has been on the police's most-wanted list since April 2005. Leonidas said many RMS members and supporters were on the run, conducting their activities clandestinely to gain international attention. "These two groups will be our targets, based on previous years' experiences they were responsible for the disruptions in Maluku, particularly in Ambon," he said. Meanwhile, FKM figure Samuel Waelerunny remains free following his conditional release from prison while his trial continues. "He (Samuel) has to be monitored because of his role in the FKM. We've made it clear to prosecutors we want him back behind bars," Leonidas said. Ambon Prosecutor's Office chief MA Pattikawa said Samuel was conditionally released at the end of his arrest term. "We can't do much. This is based on the law and prevailing procedures because when the arrest term of a suspect is over he should be freed," he said. Samuel was arrested in April at Ambon's Pattimura Airport. Evidence, including text messages saved on his cell phone, showed he was coordinating the RMS' anniversary activities.