The Jakarta Post, January 23, 2002
Security forces an obstacle to peace in Maluku: Mayor
Tiarma Siboro, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Besides the absence of a serious commitment from the central government, the
disharmony among security personnel, especially between the local military and
police in the provincial capital of Maluku, has obstructed the reconciliation process in
the conflict-ridden province, says Ambon Mayor Yopie Max Papilaya.
He noted that the handling of the socioeconomic problems caused by the
three-year-old conflict had faced numerous obstacles because of the frequent tension
between servicemen and police. He said that the state of civil emergency would not
be effective in ending the conflict unless all elements, especially the security
authorities, functioned effectively.
"The state of civil emergency is, in fact, ineffective as the military and the police are
not solid and neutral in restoring security and order. The servicemen and police blame
each other and even shoot at one another," he said after briefing the Coordinating
Minister for Political and Security Affairs, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, at the latter's
office here on Monday.
Papilaya cited a recent incident when security personnel from the Police Mobile
Brigade opened fire on a tanker belonging to a local Navy unit. "A sailor has gone
missing. There is a possibility that he has been abducted," he said.
Before the incident, both sides were also involved in the shooting up of a speed boat
off Galala seaport in the city last December, which left numerous civilians and
servicemen dead. The large explosion that occurred on board the ferry Kalifornia prior
to the shooting up of the speedboat also had something to do with the conflict
between the local police and Navy.
The two incidents had led the city administration to give full authority to the local
police to take charge of security and order in the city.
He also said it appeared impossible for the police to enforce the law "as they are
trapped in their own internal conflicts and there are no more prosecutors, judges or
According to him, the central government had failed to pay serious attention to the
problems facing the provincial administration in administering the state of emergency.
Harold Crouch, an Australian expert on Indonesia, during a recent visit to the city said
that he was of the same opinion, namely that the security authorities, both the
military and the police, should remain neutral in enforcing the law.
According to him, the situation in the province had gradually returned to normal, and
both the government and security authorities should gradually remove demarcation
lines so as to allow supporters of the two conflicting factions to interact with one
another and enable life to return to normal, as it was three years ago.
Maluku had once been known for its religious tolerance before the sectarian conflict
erupted on Jan. 19, 1999. The conflict, which was triggered by a dispute between two
youths of different religions, has claimed more than 6,000 lives, forced hundreds of
thousands of locals to flee to other provinces and destroyed thousands of houses,
churches and mosques.
Asked about the planned visit by high-level central government officials to the
province, Papilaya said they would be in Ambon on Friday to assess the conflict in an
attempt to seek a peaceful solution similar to that applied in solving the Poso conflict
in Central Sulawesi.
During the three-day visit, he said, the government officials would hold meetings with
all elements of Maluku society to seek input on how the prolonged conflict should be
"Despite being similar, the conflict in Maluku has its own unique features and
nuances. We will assess just how far the Poso solution can be adopted in solving the
Maluku conflict," he said.
Susilo is scheduled to lead the high-powered team, which includes Coordinating
Minister for Investment and the Economy Dorojatun Koentjorojakti and Coordinating
Minister for People's Welfare Jusuf Kalla, on a visit to Maluku on Friday after the visit
was canceled on Monday.
"We will identify all of the problems that emerge and will seek solutions during our
visit," he said after receiving Papilaya.
He also acknowledged that the absence of strong coordination between the local
military and the police had worsened the situation in Ambon, and had led to both
sides becoming involved in the clashes.
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