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 As Plane’s True Capacity Comes Into Question, Kalla Defends Illicit Transport of Civilians

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BerichtOnderwerp: As Plane’s True Capacity Comes Into Question, Kalla Defends Illicit Transport of Civilians   do 2 jul 2015 - 5:50

The Jakarta Globe, Jul 01, 2015

Jakarta. Vice President Jusuf Kalla has justified the alleged use of a military plane that crashed on Tuesday for the commercial transportation of civilians, even as the Air Force chief denounced the practice as strictly forbidden.

With 141 bodies recovered as of Wednesday from the site of the crash in a residential area of Medan, North Sumatra, Kalla told reporters in Jakarta that the paid passage of civilians on board military aircraft was a valuable contribution to isolated communities from the Indonesian Military, or TNI.

“The military has civilian missions as well [as military ones],” he said, adding that the C-130 Hercules transporter that crashed on Tuesday shortly after takeoff was “not on any special mission.”

“So rather than fly empty to Natuna, it took on passengers. I see that as a contribution by the TNI to people in difficult circumstances,” Kalla said.

The plane was officially on a mission carrying supplies to a naval base in the Natuna Islands, at the southwestern tip of the South China Sea. Rated to transport a total number of 97 passengers and crew, it was officially listed as carrying 12 crew and 101 passengers, ostensibly military personnel and their families being stationed in the Natuna Islands.

However, the number of casualties and a preliminary investigation indicate that the 51-year-old plane was likely carrying more than the official figure – itself far in excess of the plane’s maximum capacity – and that many of those on board were likely civilian passengers paying for a ride to the remote island chain.

Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, a former Army chief of staff, acknowledged that transporting civilians on military aircraft was a common practice.

“It’s been like that since way back,” he said in Jakarta. “If they want to go along, they’re welcome to. It’s been like that for ages, with no problems before.”

The statements from the defense minister and the vice president fly in the face of the Air Force’s own policy of not allowing civilians onto military aircraft outside of emergency situations.

“No [military] aircraft is permitted to transport civilians,” Air Marshal Agus Supriatna said on Tuesday, “unless there are orders from above, for instance for evacuation in the case of a disaster. Family members [of military personnel] are an exception.”

He stressed that the “commercialization” of military flights was strictly prohibited.

“If that was the case [in the Medan accident], we’ll fire the commander,” Agus said. “This is definitely one aspect of our ongoing investigation.”

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