Subject: TNI firm in setting up units on ET border despite local protests

Tuesday, June 30, 2009 7:59 PM

Army firm in setting up units despite protests

Yemris Fointuna , The Jakarta Post , Kupang | Tue, 06/30/2009 10:54 AM | The Archipelago

The Indonesian Military (TNI) has remained resolute in setting up an infantry battalion and a tank unit in areas bordering East Timor in North Timor Tengah regency, East Nusa Tenggara, despite mounting pressure over the past few weeks.

The stance was disclosed Monday by Udayana Military Commander Major Gen. Hotmangaradja Pandjaitan in Kupang, after he led a tour of duty ceremony at the Wirasakti Military Command from Col. Winston Simanjuntak to Col. Dodi Usodo Hargo.

Simanjuntak said the regency borders directly with Oecusi district in East Timor and is important to efforts to stave off threats and disturbances from foreign parties.

The public protest, including that from the local Catholic Church, over the planned establishment of the two Army units, is on the grounds East Timor is not a threat to the country. Critics have said the people instead need more economic development such as in health care and education and not military facilities.

The regency administration and legislature have also expressed reservations over the proposed construction of the military units. The legislature even voiced its objection in a plenary session early June.

In response to this, Simanjuntak said the establishment of the new military facilities was part of the central government's program in the defence sector and was for the sake of the nation and state.

"The presence of the new units will provide immediate benefits for the people and spur economic growth in the area."

He added the TNI presence would benefit residents, especially in the event of natural disasters.

"It would not be easy for foreign parties to claim part of the country given the TNI's presence, because it will protect every inch of soil."

The units will be built on 20 hectares (ha) in the districts of Biboki Aneu, Biboki Fetleu and Insana.

"Construction would likely be completed in 2019," he said.

Separately, the Biboki traditional community forum, made up of 154 traditional leaders in North Timor Tengah, wrote a letter asking the TNI to stop their activities on a 60-ha area donated by local Hendrikus Makun, on behalf of the leaders.

The protest, according to the leaders, is because the area is part of a protected forest and a clean water source, a grazing area for livestock and their ancestors' burial grounds. The area remains important to lives of the Biboki traditional community.


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