Daily Archives: 7 February 2004

Visited Countries Map

Okay, these are the countries I’ve visited. Extra points if you can see Micronesia.

Create your own visited country map.

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Recap of Three Years of Violence in Maluku, Indonesia, 1999-2002

In January 2002, two reporters for the Jakarta Post, Edith Hartanto in Jakarta and Oktavianus Pinontoan in Ambon, published a special report entitled “Three years of bloody Maluku conflicts leave nothing but disaster.”

AMBON, Maluku (JP): Three years ago, a petty dispute between a local and two migrants in the Ambon capital of Maluku degenerated into a full-scale sectarian riot which up to this year has killed 9,000 people and forced more than 500,000 people out of their homes.

The involvement of outsiders and provocateurs in the ensuing violence worsened the tension among what was once a harmonious community of various races and religions. The community became divided by blood, rage and deceit.

It all began on Jan. 19, 1999 at 3 p.m. local time when local public minivan driver Jopi Leuhery, from Ahuru, Central Maluku, became involved in a quarrel with two male migrants from Bugis-Makassar [Sulawesi], named Nursalim and Tahang.

The two men apparently tried to extort money from Jopi at the Batu Merah bus terminal and threatened to slash him with sickle.

Upset by their action, Jopi ran back to his house, picked up a machete and along with several friends went after the two extortionists.

In their account before the court, where they were being tried for a purely criminal offense, both Nursalim and Tahang said they fled to the predominantly Muslim Batu Merah Kampung area near the bus terminal and yelled: “There is a Christian who wants to kill us”….

Nursalim’s action on that fateful day led to a fierce communal brawl, in which a group of angry Batu Merah residents went after Jopi, but failed to find him. The mass then burned a welding shop and a house belonging to a Christian in the border town of Batu Merah and the predominantly Christian Mardika [‘Independence’] area. [See map, photos.]

At around 5 p.m. local time on Jan. 19, 1999, the first place of worship, the Sinar Kasih Church in Waihaong, was set alight by rioters.

Rumors spread and tension began to take hold in the area, and unidentified people roamed the streets, spreading rumors of attacks. Who they were and what their roles were in the riots are still unknown.

Angered by the attacks, Mardika people with the rest of the Christian community conducted retaliation assaults on mosques in the area.

On the morning of Jan. 20, 1999 a false rumor spread that the Grand Al-Fatah Mosque was on fire. By this time people were already divided in their own respective areas according to their religion. People donned bandannas to signify their religion: red for Christian, white for Muslim….

Analysts have said that if the security forces and the intelligence units had been quick to respond to the situation in the early stages of unrest in 1999, widespread communal conflicts could have been avoided.

From a criminal dispute, the Maluku riots developed into sectarian conflict that was loaded with economic and political interests, while the players in the conflict freely roamed the islands.

The involvement of outsiders such as the Jihad Force, which pledged to wage a holy war in Maluku, and small elements of the outlawed South Maluku Republic (RMS) separatist movement, have also contributed to the already complex strife.

(The reference to the RMS is a lame attempt at moral equivalence. The RMS was supported by Muslims as well as Christians, but some of the jihadis have rechristened it Republik Maluku Serani [‘Christian Maluku Republic’].)

Frustrated by the prolonged violence and losses in both Maluku and North Maluku, in a desperate effort the central government imposed a state of civil emergency in the territory on June 27, 2000….

The implementation of the state of emergency, if not too late, was undermined by the fall of the police base in Maluku during the Tantui incident on June 23, 2000, by which time security forces on duty in the province were already divided by religion.

What undermined the state of emergency was not some chance incident. Instead, it was (in the words of area specialist Dieter Bartels) the “massive arrival of non-Ambonese, mostly Javanese, Moslem vigilante group, called Laskar Jihad (‘Holy War Forces’). They brought with them sophisticated modern weaponry and allied themselves with the Moslem personnel of the military which constitutes about eighty percent of the troops. These developments totally destroyed the previous balance, tipping the scale in favor of the Moslems.”

Having built up their forces since May, the Laskar Jihad entered the fray in force on June 23, mounting a combined land and sea attack on the elite Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) base in Tantui, a few kilometers from downtown Ambon. They attacked the police station to make sure the Christians were disarmed.

The assailants went on a rampage and burned the whole compound, including police housing complex, arsenal, hospital, provincial and high-ranking officers residences.

They assassinated the Brimob deputy commander in Maluku Maj. Edi Susanto (whose name is Javanese) and looted the police arsenal for weapons and ammunition. On July 1, with some wearing white robes and others in military-style uniforms, the thugs went on to attack three predominantly Christian communities, Poka, Rumah Tiga, and Waai, and to destroy the whole campus of Pattimura University.

The state of civil emergency was finally lifted in September 2003, by which time the Laskar Jihad militia had moved on to West Papua.

In the last few months there have been only a few minor incidents which can be attributed to the small number of militants still in the area. However, given that the investigation into the Bali bombing unearthed evidence of terrorists from Jemaah Islamiah and other organisations using Maluku as a training and recruitment area, the authorities need to remain vigilant for any renewed militant activity….

The Maluku conflict, which began in 1999, has left some 10,000 dead and over half a million displaced. Many areas remain segregated along religious lines. [See map.]

A Muslim-Christian interfaith council is slowly trying to piece the shattered community back together.

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Royal Dutch Marines vs. South Moluccan Terrorists, 1977

Most baby boomers (scroll to the bottom at the link) should have a vague memory of this incident.

One bright May morning in 1977, the children of Bovendsmilde were settling down for their lessons when four South Moluccan terrorists stormed the school. Armed with submachine guns and grenades, they took 105 children and 4 teachers hostage. A short time later, just outside of town, nine heavily armed South Moluccans boarded a commuter train, taking 60 hostages. After 14 long hours, the terrorists begin issuing their political demands. As negotiations dragged on for an interminable two weeks, the Royal Dutch Marines were taking action. See how the elite counter-terrorism and commando squad used thermal imaging and listening devices to formulate a rescue plan. This double siege is the most famous mission of the Royal Dutch Marines and is still studied by counter-terrorism units worldwide as a textbook example of how to handle a hostage crisis.

This was just one of many, many terrorist incidents during the 1970s. And the number of such incidents seems to have grown with each passing decade.

What were the South Moluccans on about, anyway? Well, according to the UNPO (Unrepresented Nations and People’s Organization, whose membership includes East Turkestan, Kurdistan, the Hungarian minority in Romania, and Ka Lähui Hawai‘i), they were very unhappy when the Dutch ceded sovereignty to Sukarno’s Federal Republic of Indonesia in 1949, and more unhappy when Sukarno then began to turn the federal republic into a unitary state under tight Javanese control. The European Academy continues the story.

In 1950, a rebellion against the Indonesian central government broke out in the South Moluccas, calling for an independent republic. In the same year, however, the revolt was struck down. Many South Moluccans emigrated to the Netherlands, and in the 1970s tried to compel the government there to petition the Indonesian government to allow south Moluccan independence using terrorist methods.

Unfortunately for them, such methods backfired badly. In 1978, the Dutch parliament ceased to recognize the Republik Maluku Selatan (RMS) government in exile.

For a fuller understanding of the history of the South Moluccan exiles in the Netherlands, read “From Black Dutchmen to White Moluccans: Ethnic Metamorphosis of an East Indonesian Minority in the Netherlands,” by Dieter Bartels. It begins thus:

After returning to Indonesia after World War II, the Dutch employed 25,000 Moluccan soldiers in their attempt to foil the movement for Indonesian Independence. With the transfer of sovereignty in 1949, 12,000 of these troops were demobilized, 6,000 were discharged, and 1,000 entered the Indonesian army (TNI). Circa 2,000 soldiers stationed in the South Moluccas became the core forces of a movement to establish an independent South Moluccan Republic, the RMS. About 4,000 others, mostly stationed on western islands, mainly on Java, refused to be mobilized or discharged anywhere but in the Moluccas or (then still) Dutch New Guinea ….

The problem was solved by “temporarily” moving the troops, and about 8,500 family members, to the Netherlands in 1951. Over 75 percent of them were Protestant Christian ethnic Ambonese from the Central Moluccan islands who were dominating the political actions of this minority. Fanatically anti-Indonesian, they were never allowed back and over the next two decades their population increased to approximately 40,000. In the late 1960s and 1970s, the Moluccan youth became restless and shocked the world with a number of spectacular acts of terrorism in futile attempts to force the Dutch to help them to return to their homeland to be freed of Indonesian rule.

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Micronesia: Clean Gov’t, Corrupt Gov’t Tied at 1-1

Anticorruption forces have managed to convince the Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia not to pass Resolution 13-76, a blanket amnesty for both indicted and unindicted officials accused of corruption.

According to an FSM Congress press release, the measure seeks to “forgive all those who wronged the FSM government” since the beginning of the Compacts of Free Association, a treaty with the United States, from Nov. 3, 1986, to Nov. 3, 2002, who “are not yet convicted.”

However, the forces of corruption prevailed earlier, with Resolution 13-69, which discontinued the services of retired judge Richard E. Benson, who had been appointed by the FSM Supreme Court as a Special Justice on a corruption case involving congressmen from Chuuk [Truk] state. (A total of 14 defendants have been named, and as much as $25 million is said to have gone missing.)

FSM President Joseph J. Urusemal has filed a Writ of Prohibition with the FSM Supreme Court seeking to prevent the enforcement of the Benson resolution, on the grounds that it violates constitutional separation of powers. Justice Benson had previously served on the FSM Supreme Court.

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