ABC AUSTRALIA, 12/6/2002
INDONESIA: Maluku security should not be muddied
Indonesia's vice President Hamzah Haz has warned the governor of the troubled
eastern province of Maluku that he'll be dumped if he doesn't curb the activities of the
separatist South Maluku Republic. Hamzah Haz, who visited the provincial capital
Ambon this week, says the fragile peace between Muslims and Christians should not
be allowed to become muddied by separatism.
Presenter/Interviewer: Kanaha Sabapathy
Speakers: Dr Thamrin Amal Tomagola from the University of Indonesia; Haji
Mohamad Yusef Eli, a Muslim leader from Ambon.
SABAPATHY: Indonesia's vice president Hamzah Haz met Muslim and Christian
leaders on Tuesday in the riot-hit city of Ambon, to try and find a lasting solution to
three years of sectarian conflict in the Malukus.
A fragile peace pact signed between the two communities in February this year was
shattered when an attack on the Christian village of Soya on April 28 left 13 people
dead and an ancient church destroyed.
But, according to Dr Thamrin Amal Tomagola, a native of Maluku and a lecturer at the
University of Indonesia, the vice president's visit should have focussed not so much on
bridging the gap between the two communities but with dealing with the unidentified
groups that are the source of troubles in the Malukus.
TOMAGOLA: That meeting has been carried out by those two communities
themselves for quite some time. So, in my opinion the problem no longer lies with the
local communities but more lies with unidentified groups. T! hey come mainly from the
Kopassus group and the mobile brigade of the police. And some of them also come
from the strategic unit.
SABAPATHY: Muslims and Christians clashed three times in 1999, and in May 2000
the militant Laskhar Jihad group sent its people to support the Muslims. And in the
three year sectarian war that followed some 5,000 lives have been lost.
The Laskhar Jihad, which has been classified as a terrorist organisation, still retains
some 3,000 of its people in the Malukus. Its leader Jafar Uma Thalib is in detention in
Jakarta. But Mr Hamzah Haz, who met him early last month, says the militant group
is willing to leave Maluku if Muslim security is guaranteed.
HAZ: The local Muslim community says that if the Lakshar Jihad leaves Ambon then
who is going to take care of the security. At that point I think the national security
force should come in and they shouldn't take any sides.
SABAPATHY: The vice president who oversaw a weapons ha! ndover by Muslim
militants, also warned the governor of Maluku to act decisively against the separatist
South Maluku Republic, or RMS.
The mainly Christian RMS had hoisted its flag to mark its anniversary on April 25,
which is said to have provoked the attack on the village of Soya three days later.
Haji Mohamad Yusef Eli is a Muslim chief in Ambon. He says the Christians have not
reciprocated in kind by turning over their weapons and continue to receive financial
and weapons assistance from their brethrens living in the Netherlands.
ELI: They propogate, the Christian Maluku, to separate this province from the unity of
the Republic of Indonesia.
SABAPATHY: Dr Tomagola, however, does not see the RMS posing a great problem
to the security of the Malukus. Rather he sees it as a tactic to justify any military
action by the central government.
TOMOGOLA: They have support from some locals, not more than 300 people there.
And that support comes only! because they have friendship relations with some
figures of that separatist movement. In addition to that, the separatist movement does
not pose any threat to security there. So it's an issue blown up by the security force
in order to take control of the situation there. If people talk about international support
from Holland, I think that support is only limited to support in the form of financial
SABAPATHY: Nonetheless, Mr Hamzah Haz has vowed to dump the governor if he
fails to curb the activites of the RMS, a responsibility which Dr Tomagola says should
be that of the security forces.
TOMOGOLA: The problem is not with the governor. It would be quite wrong for the vice
president to sack the governor there. The main culprit is the regional commander
who's already been replaced by the new one, because the military regional
commander didn't want to take any orders from the governor there, then the problem
arose. So I think the security force should be d! ealt with first, and then the governor.
12/6/2002 | ABC Radio Australia News
© 2001 Australian Broadcasting Corporation