Thursday, October 05, 2006

More weapons destroyed in formerly restive Ambon



by M. Azis Tunny, The Jakarta Post, Ambon

In a gesture of peace and security, 103 handmade weapons were destroyed Wednesday in Ambon, four years after the end of a bloody sectarian conflict in Maluku province.
Maj. Gen. Sudarmaidy, chief of the Pattimura Military Command, which oversees the Maluku and North Maluku provinces, said the residents' move to surrender the firearms to security personnel was evidence of people's trust in the authorities.
"The security situation has been getting better and people's awareness (of the need to maintain peace) has been getting better as they surrender their weapons to military posts," he said.
Sectarian conflict rocked the area on and off from 1999 to 2002, leaving thousands of Muslims and Christians dead and forcing hundreds of thousands of others to flee their homes.
The Wednesday arms destruction was the second conducted by the military command this year.
The first was held a day before the Independence Day celebrations in August, when 533 handmade weapons surrendered by or confiscated from the warring groups in 2005 were destroyed.
The weapons destroyed Wednesday were seized from or surrendered by residents between April and September.
The handmade weapons, comprising 69 rifles and 34 guns, were cut into pieces before being thrown into the sea or burned.
The spokesman for the Pattimura military command, Maj. Paiman, said the remnants of the firearms were disposed of into the waters of Tanjung Alang in Central Maluku regency.
"We cut a firearm in two or four pieces and dumped it into deep sea to ensure it would be hard for people to get it back," he said.
The operation Wednesday did not include 68 official military or police weapons and 7,000 pieces of ammunition as well as explosives that were also gathered this year. All of them were in good condition.
Sudarmaidy said the official weapons have to be destroyed following standard procedures after first being reported to Indonesian Military (TNI) Commander Air Chief Marshall Djoko Suyanto and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Djoko Santoso.
He said the process might take some time since each weapon has to be thoroughly checked, from its serial number to its source.
Sudarmaidy did not provide a detailed description of the official weapons, saying only that most of them were M16s, and many likely came from outside the province.
"We'll investigate where these weapons came from and who was sending them here," Sudarmaidy said.
He also asked people to continue surrendering their weapons since they are dangerous and could legally implicate their owners. He promised to provide protection for those who surrendered their arms.

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