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The Jakarta Post

The Jakarta Post, August 23, 2007

Uneasy calm settles in Maluku following protests

M. Azis Tunny, The Jakarta Post, Ambon

Tensions eased Thursday in Ternate, North Maluku province, a day after violent protests injured 15 people -- but the threat of further protests remains.

Sultan Baabulah airport was reopened Thursday after being closed the previous day when protesters blocked the runway with barrels, stones, tree trunks and flower pots.

Residents had resumed their daily activities but several government offices remained closed.

On Wednesday, nine people were shot by police who opened fire on protesters. Six police officers were wounded in the incident after being pelted by stones.

"The situation is now under control. A flight has departed this (Thursday) morning from Ternate to Manado (North Sulawesi)," North Maluku Police spokesman Comr. Noortjahyo told The Jakarta Post.

The police have made no arrests.

"The most important thing is, the situation is under control. We have worked together with palace officials and other parties to maintain security," Noortjahyo said.

Supporters of Ternate Sultan Mudafar Syah clashed with police after the sultan was declared ineligible to run in the upcoming gubernatorial election by the North Maluku General Elections Commission.

The commission found Mudafar had failed to meet administrative requirements to contest the election, which is scheduled for Sept. 25.

Noortjahyo said the police are prepared for violence that might erupt leading up to the election. He said the police would deploy 2,400 personnel to the region during the election period.

"We have requested an additional 400 Brimob police paramilitary unit personnel from Jakarta to assist with security issues during the elections.

"The National Police headquarters have approved the request."

Meanwhile, head of the United Development Party in North Maluku, Salim A. Khalik, told The Jakarta Post the party would take their supporters to the streets to demand the elections commission explain their decision to drop their candidate.

He said the Wednesday clash erupted because Mudafar's supporters could not accept the commission's decision.

"We're very disappointed with the commission's decision ... it fails to clarify our question of why our candidate was excluded from the race.

"We will take our supporters to the streets and protest this issue," Salim said.

He urged the provincial administration to respond to the problem quickly and logically to prevent further violence.

"We will continue to demand an explanation."

Head of North Maluku KPUD, M. Rahmi Husen, was disappointed by the incident and urged protesters to settle their grievances in court.

"They (the protesters) should follow the laws and regulations. If they feel they have been treated unfairly they should take the matter to court and settle it there," Rahmi said.

He said Mudafar Syah failed to meet administrative requirements since the parties that endorsed him garnered less than 15 percent of the votes -- the minimum required percentage -- during the 2004 legislative election.

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