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West Kalimantan ethnic groups 'draft peace pact'

Straits Times - February 16, 1997

Jakarta – Representatives from the clashing ethnic groups in West Kalimantan are drafting a peace agreement to end the conflict that has rocked the Indonesian province since December, reports said.

It is being drawn up by members of the indigenous Dayak community and migrants from Madura, an island off East Java, the Indonesian Observer reported yesterday.

"The peace committee is still working on it, as certain cultural elements must be taken into consideration," said West Kalimantan Governor Aspar Aswin.

The reports of a possible peace pact came after nearly two months of violent clashes between ethnic groups which left hundreds dead and caused thousands to flee from the province, newspapers have said.

Security forces have arrested 68 people following the unrest between the Dayaks and Madurese that erupted last December.

A curfew in the provincial capital Pontianak, enforced since February 1, was ended on Thursday night.

Visiting members of the National Commission on Human Rights have been invited to witness what has been dubbed a "racial reconciliation" pact, the report said.

But many believe the agreement will not ease the deep-seated mistrust between the two ethnic groups which have had at least eight major disputes over the last 20 years.

"All previous peace agreements have been arranged by the government and they do not reflect the aspirations of the people," a former official was quoted as saying in the Observer.

A Dayak source in Pontianak told the AFP yesterday that the peace accord was initiated by "people who live in the urban areas" and he claimed it would have little impact in the rural areas where most of the conflict had occurred.

"But I hope this agreement succeeds because we are still afraid of the situation. We need security and a normal situation so people can move from place to place," he said.

A military spokesman in Pontianak yesterday said the city was returning to normal with "all shops open and traffic flowing in the centre of town". – AFP.