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Paras Indonesia, October, 31 2005 @ 12:53 am

Three Heads Of The Schoolgirls: Sacrificial For Whom?

Everyone condemned the beheadings of the three schoolgirls in Poso, Central Sulawesi. The difference is the statements that follow the condemnations. President Susilo Bambang Yudoyono (SBY) in denouncing the murders said the act of terror was related to the excess of the horizontal conflict a few years ago. He said even though the condition in Poso has improved, "there are always groups that continue to want maintain the hostility and conflict". SBY's condemnation however, was not only irresponsible, but also boomerangs to the people of Poso.

The president's statement was irresponsible because once again the government blamed the Poso conflict among religions as the source of violence, while closing his eyes on the clash between local political elites, political economical interests and vast corruption in Poso. The last element was actually officially reported by the Parliament's Special Committee on the Poso Conflict in a Parliament session on June 28, 2005. The committee stated that: "Corruption is the cause of the disturbances and violence in Poso, and it is also closely related to the acts of terror that happened after the Malino agreement".

Furthermore, the committee recommended that in order to bring peace to Poso, the government must tackle first the issue of corruption.

The President's statement has certainly discredited the efforts made by the people of Poso. The community has realized that there are greater interest powers at work, using religious issues to stir up conflict. Members of the Poso (and also Palu) community joined hands, facilitated by NGOs, and formed two coalitions Coalition of Community Against Corruption, and Coalition for Peace in Central Sulawesi.

The President's statement was an old and overused (but still effective) method of scapegoat by blaming on the immaturity of the society as the core factor that sparks violence. The National Police Chief Sutanto also blamed the community for the slowness of police investigations. He said the community is reluctant to open up and give information to the police on perpetrators of violence, hinting those responsible are members of the community themselves.

To make matters worst, like usual the statements by the President and Police Chief were quoted by the media which continue to promote the genre of the religious conflict in Poso. The public also continues to believe in the conflict. Only a few opposed military approach to end the so-called Poso conflict. Many do not realize that such approach brings a whole set of problems rather than resolutions.

There are a number of views on what caused the Poso conflict. To this day, most media describe the conflict in three periods. The first occurred in December 1998 where two men of different beliefs clashed during a sub-district head election. The second period was in April 2000 where again two men of different beliefs fought, followed by shootings and burnings of hundreds of houses and two churches. The third period occurred just one month after the second in May 2000. This time, the clash was sparked by rumors that Christian groups were organizing themselves to retaliate to the perpetrators of the second period conflict. The authority backed out, leaving Poso a killing field. This third period clash was the worst, causing so much damage and lost of lives. Killings were everywhere. Refugees flocked all over Sulawesi and other places.

Some other views added a fourth period of clashes where killings continued even after the Malino peace agreement in December 2001. The NGOs blame corruption as the main cause of the violence as various parties were trying to get a tap on the large refugee fund.

So, the conflict between 1998 to 2001 can be categorized as a conflict of economic interests that involved and sacrificed the community of Poso, while the post 2001 conflict is more sophisticated, involving high level political elites which was carried out by the professionals (and/or trained militias) by sacrificing the Poso people. The President has simplified such complex conflict.

There are also three levels of suffering in Poso. The first are victims who have lost materials and non-materials. These were people who were forcefully displaced, separated from family members, lost their houses and belongings, killed, and buried improperly.

The second level victims are the refugees who are manipulated by corrupt officials who took away their rights. The corruption also led to sniper attacks and mysterious murders. The NGOs call these officials "from mediator to contractor to corruptor". Furthermore, "the refugees are given Super Mie (type of instant noodle) while officials walk away with Super Kijang (type of Toyota car)".

The third level of suffering comes from such statements made by President SBY (and his Police chief) who continues to blame religious conflicts as the source of violence in Poso. Moreover, the people of Poso have to accept that the line between condemnation and the act of covering up seems to be so thin.

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