Jul 19, 2004

South Moluccas: Violence stops but Fears Remains

Secretary General of Moluccas Sovereignty Front risks 20 years of jail for support to Moluccas independence
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Over the last two months violence between Christians and Muslims on Ambon, an island in the archipelago of Moluccas, has apparently come to an end, this according to the Crisis Centre of the Ambon Diocese. Never the les, people from both communities are still scared to enter each other’s areas. Memories of the clashes that shook the town of Amboina in late April to mid-May causing the death of 41 people are still fresh.

All started on April 25 when a demonstration took place celebrating the anniversary of the “Declaration of Independence” of the South Moluccas Republic (Republik Maluku Selatan). Police arrested 24 people and brought them in for questioning. Some demonstrators, who had escorted those detained to Police Headquarters, found their way home blocked by members the Undivided Republic of Indonesia group (Negara Kesatuan Republik Indonesia).

It was the spark that lit the fire that led to violent clashes. Several days of shooting and unrest left the city reeling: homes and public buildings torched, people killed, and countless numbers of others fleeing for their lives.

In early May, the Secretary-General of the secessionist Mollucas Sovereignty Front (Front Kedaulatan Maluku) Moses Tuanakotta and Oly Manuputty, who is married to Alex Manuputty, the secessionist movement leader, were arrested and taken to Jakarta for interrogation in connection with the incidents of April 25. Appearing yesterday before the Ambon Court both were charged with high treason for their support of FKM and Moluccas independence. They risk 20 years to life.

Inter-communal conflict began in 1999 and has so far caused 5,000 deaths and 500,000 refuges. In 2002 Mollucan Christians and Muslims signed a peace accord which however has not ended the hostilities. Unrest seems to be partly the work of “certain presidential candidates” said Bishop Petrus Canisius Mandagi of Amboina who, along with other observers, thinks that the violence promotes someone’s “own political interest.” The veiled reference seems directed at former General Wiranto, Golkar party presidential candidate. Last July 5 elections, which many feared would be marred by violence, were instead held without violence. For the time being, outgoing President Megawati Sukarnoputri leads in the Mollucas with Wiranto a close second.

Source: Asia News