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300 died in ethnic clashes, not 1,000, says ABRI

Agence France Presse - February 19, 1997

Jakarta – About 300 people have died as a result of recent ethnic clashes in West Kalimantan and four people are being investigated for allegedly sparking the unrest, military (Abri) officials are reported to have said yesterday. "It's not true that the number of victims killed reached more than 1,000 like it was quoted in an English-language newspaper in Jakarta. The number of people killed was about 300 people," Major-General Zacky Anwar Makarim was quoted as saying by the Media Indonesia daily.

The Indonesian Observer reported last week that thousands of people had died in the violence.

Until Maj-Gen Makarim's statement, military sources had only said that "hundreds" of people had died since late December in clashes between the indigenous Dayak people and migrants from Madura, a small island north of Java.

The Jakarta Post quoted Maj-Gen Makarim as saying four people were being investigated for allegedly circulating anonymous leaflets and pictures slandering a certain religious and ethnic group. "We strongly suspect they were instigators of the latest wave of violence in Pontianak and the surrounding areas," he said.

He declined to identify the four people, saying only that the police had questioned but not arrested them as they were collecting more evidence.

Major-General Namuri Anum, head of security in West Kalimantan, said last week that 68 people had been detained on suspicion of criminal actions during the mass unrest.

Army chief General R. Hartono said over the weekend that the military had proof of individuals travelling from East Java province to incite unrest, but he did not elaborate.

A Pontianak resident told AFP yesterday that the situation was "a bit calmer here compared to the last few weeks, but there is still tension between the two communities". The source said there were fresh clashes between the warring groups as late as Sunday in Sungai Ambawang, a town less than 10 km east of Pontianak, but could not give further details.

The resident said that while the authorities had lifted the curfew in Pontianak, "the city is still pretty empty at night".

Yesterday morning, a ceremony involving representatives from the Dayak and Madurese communities was held in front of the Pontianak mayoralty office building.

During the ceremony, attended by about 1,000 people, including the local government and military leaders, a declaration was read out in which the two sides pledged to work for peace and to settle their differences, a witness said by telephone. Provincial officials said a series of peace talks at district and provincial level were underway between the two ethnic groups.

Observers said they were sceptical about the outcome of the talks, saying they believed a peace accord would not relieve deep-seated tension between the two ethnic groups who have had at least eight major disputes over the past 20 years. In another development, the Indonesian-language Angkatan Bersenjata newspaper quoted Lieutenant-General Syarwan Hamid as saying that Abri would act in a sterner and more direct manner without compromise.

He said Abri would not allow any attempt to disrupt national stability and integrity. – AFP.