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Indonesian province remains tense, public Moslem processions barred

Agence France Presse - February 8, 1997

Jakarta – The Indonesian province of West Kalimantan remained tense Saturday following days of ethnic unrest, with the authorities barring street processions for the Moslem Idul Fitri celebrations Sunday.

"Pontianak (West Kalimantan's capital) is calm but still tense. We continue to have neighborhood patrols at night," a resident told AFP by telephone.

Local residents have reported clashes between the indigenous Dayak people and migrants from Madura, an island north of Java, as recently as early Friday morning in the Sambas and Sanggau districts north of Pontianak.

"People from the north keep pouring into Pontianak to avoid the unrests up north," a resident said Saturday. Violence in the province since the start of the year is the latest in a series of religious and ethnic disturbances to hit Indonesia, the world's most populous Moslem nation, in recent months.

Over a dozen people have been killed in riots in several towns since October. Thousands of people in West Kalimantan have sought shelter both in military compounds and relatives' homes since a fresh bout of violence erupted last week, in the wake of mass clashes between the Dayaks and migrants a month earlier.

Violence in West Kalimantan on Borneo island prompted Malaysia's neighboring Sarawak state to close all border crossing posts with Kalimantan on Sunday.

Reports have said that five people died in the first series of unrests, with the authorities saying only that 21 people were missing. Dayak elders in Pontianak said they have confirmed that two Dayak men have been killed in the last week's unrest.

Abdul Malik, head of the religious department in West Kalimantan, called on Moslems, whose largest annual celebration of Idul Fitri falls on Sunday and Monday, to avoid street processions, which are an annual ritual. Malik was quoted by the Merdeka daily as saying the barring of the street procession is to prevent the event of being "utilized by irresponsible parties" to stir unrest.

Chinese new year celebrations Thursday evening and Friday were also quieter than usual, Pontianak's ethnic Chinese residents said. National Commission of Human Rights secretary general Baharudin Lopa told AFP Saturday that a commission team will be sent to the troubled area sometime this month, but declined to elaborate.

Authorities in Pontianak and several other parts of West Kalimantan have called on residents to remain indoors between 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. Security forces carry out frequent identification checks on the streets after dark. About a dozen people have been detained for carrying knives, the local Akcaya daily said. lis/lk