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Revised paper for the Proceedings of the Conference on "Conflicts and Violence in Indonesia," organised by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Department of African and Asian Studies, Humboldt-University in Berlin, July 3-5, 2000.

How the military exploited local ethno-religious tensions in Maluku to preserve their political and economic privileges

George Junus Aditjondro
(Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Newcastle, Australia)

The third point on the military agenda, namely defending TNI's territorial structure, was raised by Tomagola, noticing how quickly General Wiranto upgraded the Pattimura Korem to Kodam, thereby justifying the stationing of more troops in Maluku (Tempo, January 23, 2000: 20).

To clarify the meaning of this changes, it is important to understand the Army's territorial structure, where the line of command flows from the Chief of Staff of the Army to the commanders (Panglima) of the Kodam (Komando Daerah Militer), where the commander is a two-star general. Each Kodam consists of four to six Korem (Komando Resort Militer ), headed by a colonel. Below the Korem are the District Military Commands, or Kodim (Komando Distrik Militer ), headed by a lieutenant colonel (Kammen & Chandra 1999: 20-26).

Each Kodam has a number of associated battalions representing the different service specialisations within the Army. Commanded by a major or lieutenant colonel, these battallions are, according to Douglas Kammen and Siddharth Chandra, "the real troops behind the Army's territorial structure." In addition to these territorially based units, there are the Kopassus and Kostrad battalions (1999: 28).

Under then Armed Forces Commander General Wiranto, the Army planned to re-establish the seventeen Kodams which his predecessor, General Benny Murdani, had reduced to ten, due to the lack of adequate officers at that time (Kammen & Chandra 1999: 20-21). According to Wiranto's plan, apart from reviving the old Kodam Pattimura, other Kodams which had existed between 1958 and 1985 were also going to be revived (Forum Keadilan , March 29-April 4, 1999: 18).

To find a rationale to recreate those dormant military commands was to show that the troops were needed to deal with unrest in those regions, and after the troops had been deployed, they needed to be stationed there permanently. In other words, to justify the presence of fire fighters, the fire has to be created.

The importance of this territorial structure and its expansion by Wiranto can not be underestimated, since it is the backbone of the military's claim to carry out its function as a political force, in addition to its function as a defense force, the well-known 'dual function' doctrine. This territorial structure is parallel to the government's structure, a type of state within a state, were orders flow down from the top (the national capital) to the bottom (subdistrict), while bribes to facilitate promotions flow from the bottom to the top.

Speaking about bribes is speaking about the fourth point on the military's agenda to perpetuate the violence in Maluku, namely to defend its economic interests. This point has been raised by Amir Hamzah, a former columnist for the armed forces newspaper Angkatan Bersenjata . He says certain officers, both active and retired, feel threatened by the prospect of decentralisation. If Jakarta implement plans for regional autonomy and local revenue-sharing in 2001, local parliaments would have the power to cancel or refuse to renew lucrative contracts with military-backed companies engaged in fisheries, forestry and mining. Riots, he argues, would delay such losses (Cohen 2000).

Maluku was indeed ridden with military business interests, which was mostly through charities which had shares in the conglomerates operating in Maluku, through joint ventures with members of those conglomerates, or by using certain Sino-Indonesian business people as their financial operators. These economic interests are also not limited to the Army, but also to the Navy and Air Force. PT Green Delta, a company owned by the Air Force, supplies logs from their 74 000 hectares concession on the island of Morotai to Barito Pacific's mill on another North Maluku island (Brown 1999: 8, 62).

Maluku is, however, not the only region ridden with military business interests, since this is a nation-wide phenomenon. As a study by the International Crisis Group (ICG) has concluded that the military raises funds to cover around 75 per cent of its expenditures through business enterprises and other means. These fund-raising activities are generally not subject to public scrutiny: military commanders have access to large sums of money that could be used to finance future political manouvres (2000: iii). The Rp 189 billion (US$ 22 million) corruption scandal at Kostrad's Dharma Putera Foundation, which was only uncovered after Lieut.-Gen. Djadja Suparman was replaced by the pro-reformasi Lieut.-Gen. Agus Wirahadikusumah, is just the tip of the iceberg. Still, it had cost Wirahadikusmah his job, since he then was removed from the Kostrad command after exposing that corruption scandal (Australian Financial Review, August 1, 2000; Jakarta Post, September 22, 2000).

Ironically, when the violence began to perpetuate by itself, troops deployed in Maluku began to find ways to make big bucks for themselves from the unrest. In Ambon, soldiers offered protection for shops and travellers, who had to make the dangerous routes through warring villages to and from the airport and harbour. Soldiers from the 321 Battalion of Kostrad, who reportedly attacked three banks in Ambon on Sunday, July 16, 2000, and tortured the banks' security guards when they were not given the keys to the banks' cash deposits (Antara, July 17, 2000). In North Maluku the Brawijaya troops stole coconuts from Muslim farmers and forced Christians workers to produce copra which the soldiers exported to Manado (Tomagola 2000b). And in both provinces, the military became the main source of weapons and ammunition to both warring sides, and offered their shooting skills to whoever paid the best wages.

Last but not least, the fifth point on the military agenda is the observation that the fightings in Maluku often flare up, whenever interrogations of former President Suharto for his corruption, or interrogations of former General Wiranto for his role in the post-referendum mayhem in Timor Lorosa'e, takes place (Jawa Pos , August 5, 2000).

Unfortunately, until September 2000, the military were not looking forward towards reducing their role in the Spice Islands. On the contrary, they were looking towards expanding their role. Pattimura Military Commander, Brig.-Gen. I Made Yasa, made the revealing statement that the military was considering to open a military district (Kodim) for two new regencies of Buru and Maluku Tenggara Barat (Jakarta Post, September 2, 2000).


It can be concluded that the ongoing inter-religious violence in Maluku was fomented and maintained by a network of retired and active military officers, supported by certain politicians from the 'Central Axis' coalition of Muslim parties. These intertwined military and militant Muslim networks exploited the simmering ethno-religious tensions in Maluku using gangsters from Java and Ambon to trigger communal violence and later deployed of thousands of Muslim militants after the internal fightings in Maluku were declining. In this second phase of the conflict, the nature of the violence was transformed from inter-village conflicts to an open war with Christian villages defending themselves from massive attacks by thousands of Muslim militants, openly supported by active military units.

This situation parallels the war between pro-independence fighters and pro-Indonesian militias, backed by the Indonesian police and soldiers, before and after the UN-supervised referendum in Timor Lorosa'e. While in Timor Lorosa'e the Indonesian armed forces chose Catholic Timorese paramilitary forces and in Acheh former Achehnese guerilla fighters as their collaborators, in Maluku the military chose to side with militant Muslims shipped in from Java and other islands.

For the armed forces, the social upheavel in Maluku fulfills several strategic goals, which ultimately aimed at consolidating their political and economic power which is deeply threatened by the reformasi movement, and the new political trend towards real devolution of power to the regions.

Most probably, the militant Muslims and the politicians backing them in the national parliament are aware of the 'temporary' nature of this alliance, and have also been trying to turn this to their benefit, by using the unrest in Maluku to incapacitate the administration of President Abdurrahman Wahid, whose views about the role of Islam in Indonesia's political system differs radically from the views of the politicians who support the jihad movement. At the end of the day, however, it is still the military that calls the shots, as proven in the latest MPR sitting where the seats for the military and police were not scrapped but instead extended for another five years.

Considering the fact that the current regime in Jakarta is practically hijacked by the forces which refuse to end the violence in Maluku, there seems to be no alternative than to exert international pressure on the Indonesian government - especially on the armed forces and their parliamentary supporters -- by the United Nations and all is its agencies, including the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva and the Security Council in New York, to end the sufferings of the twin provinces of Maluku.

This political pressure should be accompanied by economic pressure aimed at the financial sources of the Indonesian military, to deter them from instigating proxy wars in faraway regions, from Acheh to Maluku and West Papua, and even in supporting militia incursions into Timor Lorosa'e.

Newcastle, October 5, 2000

Appendix I:
List of Moluccan intellectuals who have lost their lives during the violent conflicts in Maluku:

Lukas Domingus Paliama, S.H. (34 years), lecturer at Pattimura University (Unpatti) in Ambon: his body was found, stabbed to death, in Ambonís Air Kuning neigbourhood, on March 2, 1999, after the night before he had been seized from his motorcycle, while riding through the Batumerah neighbourhood with his fiance, Marlen Sitanala, M.Sc. (30 years), also lecturer at Pattimura University. They were forced into a Kijang van by six persons and taken to the house of a retired Army officer in Ambon. An Army provost, Kacong, was involved in this case. Invitations for their wedding had already been circulated, and from their place of captivity, they allegedly were still able to call their parents at home to ask them to come to the place where their bodies were dumped on the next morning. Although Marlen was the only daughter of the charismatic village chief (raja) of Suli on Ambon, her father refrained from ordering his subjects to take revenge.

Edwin Nanere (24 years), son of former Unpatti Rector, Dr. Jan Nanere and last-year law student at Unpatti, was stabbed and tortured to death by a group of booted men on KM Bukit Siguntang, on his voyage from Ambon to Makassar with his parents and brothers on August 25, 1999. So far, nobody has been apprehended and tried for this murder case. It has been speculated that the real target of this mob was Dr. Nanere, since he was on his way to Europe to testify about the 'invisible' hands behind the violence in Maluku.

Joyce Dangeubun, M.Sc. (37 years), lecturer at the Fishery Faculty of Unpatti was stabbed and her body was thrown overboard by a group of men on KM Bukit Siguntang on her voyage from Makassar to Tual, via Ambon, with five relatives and three neighbours on September 18, 1999. She was planning to do field work for her Ph.D. thesis research at Dalhouse University in Canada. Her body was never retrieved and nobody had been apprehended and tried for this murder case.

Sources: Daily Telegraph, March 3, 1999; Forum Keadilan, Jan. 30, 2000; PGI Press releases of August 25 & September 2, 1999; interviews with relatives and friends of the deceased, June - July 2000.


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End of article

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