Posts made in June, 2017

The Maluku Civil War: Bloody Christmas in North Maluku

Posted by on Jun 20, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Maluku Civil War: Bloody Christmas in North Maluku

Aside from minor incidents, North Maluku was calm until July 1999, when hundreds of troops were rushed to Ternate, North Maluku’s largest city, to protect government buildings and vital facilities after thousands turned out to demand Jakarta follow through on a promise to split Maluku into two provinces. President Habibie’s controversial plan to divide Maluku (and to separate Irian Jaya into three provinces) had been “socialized” based on the need for better administration and improved span of control for the security forces. The plan was popular in North Maluku because the new province would have a clear Muslim majority. The population was 85 percent Muslim; most villages were organized along ethnic and religious lines, a factor that worsened the subsequent violence. Jakarta inaugurated North Maluku Province in September, encompassing Ternate, Tidore, Halmahera, Bacan and Morotai Islands. That left the mixed religion Maluku Province with Ambon, Buru and Seram Islands in Central Maluku, and the smaller island chain to the southeast. Instead of acting as a stabilizing influence, the sweeping new regional autonomy laws promoted competition for patronage and power. For political reasons, the government granted autonomy to district (kabupaten) rather than province-level. That dynamic intensified local rivalries as elites jockeyed for the spoils from the new divisions. Decentralization aggravated long-suppressed ethnic and communal tensions in some regions, especially mixed religion areas like Maluku and Central Sulawesi, tensions easily manipulated by outsiders. The impact of the new laws was particularly potent in North Maluku. The Tidore and Ternate sultanates were historic rivals. Plans to create North Maluku province generated a heated debate over where the capital should be, Tidore or Ternate, and who would become governor. Ternate Sultan Muddafar Sjah, a long-time Golkar functionary, declared himself a candidate, as did the Makianese Central Halmahera Bupati Bahar Andili, a United Development Party (PPP) official closely connected to Tidore Sultan Djafar Danoyunus. After determining it impractical to hold elections or convene the provincial assembly amid growing communal unrest, the Home Affairs Ministry arbitrarily selected Ternate as the capital and appointed retired army Brigadier General Abdul Muhjie Effendie the acting governor. Along with preparations for the new Province, Jakarta had announced plans for a new Malifut subdistrict (kecamatan) on Halmahera’s northern peninsula. Residents from Makian (a small island off Halmahera’s west coast) had been resettled in the area during 1975 when their island was threatened by a volcanic eruption. (Not until thirteen years later, in 1988, did an eruption actually devastate Makian.) There had been tensions from the start between the Muslim Makianese newcomers and the Protestant and animist Kao, Jailolo and Tobelo indigenes. With historic ties to the Tidore Sultanate, the Makianese held many key bureaucratic positions. They had lobbied two decades for a separate Malifut Subdistrict before it was approved in early-1999. The Makianese would be a majority in the new subdistrict, to be carved out of the existing Kao subdistrict. The Kao community was angry because the new subdistrict would subsume several Kao villages. Competition for revenues from the new Gosowong gold mine (where the Australian Newcrest mining firm had just started production) raised the stakes. Tensions forced the August...

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The Maluku Civil War: Bloody Idul Fitri

Posted by on Jun 5, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Maluku Civil War: Bloody Idul Fitri

Province-wide, the proportion of Muslims in Maluku had increased from around 50 percent in 1971 to nearly 60 percent by the late-1990s. [1] Muslim migrants made up about one-quarter of Ambon City residents. Occasional brawls between locals and the newcomers, usually triggered by petty disputes, rarely escalating beyond neighborhood affairs. With backing from B.J. Habibie and his Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals Association (ICMI) associates, President Soeharto appointed Ambon ICMI branch chairman Akib Latuconsina as Maluku’s first Muslim governor in 1992. During five years in office, Latuconsina systematically replaced Christian bureaucrats. When his term ended in 1997, Muslims held nearly three-quarters of top posts. He was succeeded by another local Muslim (and distant relation), Saleh Latuconsina. Political parties mobilized along religious lines for parliamentary elections in late-1998. Tensions escalated in October after a pamphlet circulated claiming Governor Saleh Latuconsina would dismiss all Christian civil servants. Golkar parliamentarian Freddy Latumahina, a Protestant and Latuconsina’s rival, had ties to the criminal underworld, including former Ambon mayor, retired army Colonel Dicky Wattimena (a former commander in the Presidential Security Guard), the Coker (Cowok Keren, slang for “handsome boys,” sometimes referred to Cowok Kristen, or “Christian Boys”) gang leader Berty Loupatty, and Laskar Kristus Commander Agus Wattimena. Latumahina was a suspected financier for the Christian militias. In a tangled web of rivalries and alliances, gangsters Berty Loupatty and Agus Wattimena had ties to Megawati Sukarnoputri’s local Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) organization, while another former Golkar representative in the provincial legislature and Loupatty’s relative, Yossy Polnaya, was suspected to have provided the Protestant fighters with firearms. Al-Fatah mosque cleric and local Crescent and Star Party (PBB) Chairman Ali Fauzi, his secretary, Yusuf Ely (a former Golkar official), Thamrin Ely (Yusuf’s brother, the Ambon National Mandate Party (PAN) Chairman), and local Muslim businessman Abdullah Tuasikal (associated with the PBB) were all thought to have provided financial and material support to local Islamic fighters. [2] Several incidents heightened tensions before the outbreak of large-scale violence. Like youth in other cities, in reaction to the Semanggi tragedy thousands of Christian and Muslim students picketed at the Ambon Resort Command between November 16 and 18, 1998, while the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) convened in Jakarta. Security forces fired on students November 18, killing three and injuring seventy. Christian and Muslim community leaders confronted Governor Saleh Latuconsina on November 20 and blamed Ambon Resort Commander Colonel Hikayat for unnecessary brutality toward the students. On December 13, a Christian soldier from the organic Trikora Infantry Battalion 733 triggered a riot during a wedding party in Wailete, a Butonese, Buginese and Makassarese (BBM) migrant community on Ambon Island. Christians from neighboring Hative Besar attacked and burned Wailete. On December 27, hundreds from the Bak Air Christian village attacked the Tawiri Muslim community after a pig was killed; fighting resumed on January 5, 1999. [3] Eight died on January 14 in fighting between Christians and Muslims in Dobo village on Aru Island in Southeast Maluku, about 650 kilometers from Ambon, where thirty-seven years earlier forces under Trikora Regional Commander Major General Soeharto had staged a major incursion into Dutch-controlled West Papua. Fourteen more died...

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