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Conflict in West Kalimantan - A summary

Down to Earth Update - March 1997

Since Down to Earth posted an Action Alert on the confrontation between the indigenous Dayaks and Madurese settlers in West Kalimantan (17th Feb 1997), we have been waiting for more news and accurate information from Jakarta and Pontianak. What follows is a summary of the news items which have appeared on apc.act. indonesia, apc.reg. indonesia and in the UK and Indonesian press over the past three weeks.

This issue is fading from the headlines, but it is important that the problems of the people of West Kalimantan and the efforts of the Indonesian groups who are working to overcome these are not forgotten.

Various NGO sources are reporting that well over a thousand of people have died in clashes between Dayaks, Madurese and the military over the last three months. Several hundred have probably been shot dead by security forces. At least another thousand people are missing. Around seventy are under arrest. Between seven and eight thousand refugees are still sheltering in towns or special camps set up by the authorities. Many have no homes to return to as whole settlements were burned to the ground. Estimates of the damage to property run into tens of millions of rupiah. The damage in human terms is inestimable.

Officially, the situation is now calmer. Whether this is really so, or what the military want everyone to think is unclear. There was a fairly quiet period around mid January when official reports said everything was under control, then the confrontation exploded again in early February. That was in spite of the head of Indonesia's Armed Forces (Feisal Tanjung) presence in Pontianak on Jan 30th. The failure of the military to prevent Madurese attacks on Dayaks or to apprehend those responsible, plus official denials of the extent of the unrest were major factors in the escalation of the most recent wave of violence. In some incidents troops have responded to potential clashes with excessive violence - shhoting into crowds and severely beating people they detain. One harrowing account describes how over a hundred indigenous people were killed when Dayak trucks burst through a military road block. After causing the vehicles to overturn, soldiers machine-gunned survivors (see separating posting of SiaR report translation). In other cases troops have clearly been confined to barracks because they were outnumbered or least they inflamed the situation. Without the water cannon, tear gas or rubber bullets used to control mass gatherings in Java, troops were instructed to shoot to kill.

It is hard to tell if the conflict will flare up again soon. Controls on journalists are obviously tight and the atmosphere is remains very tense there. By all accounts, many Dayaks at grassroots level are not interested in making peace with the Madurese. The underlying causes of social inequity, land rights disputes, environmental destruction and the erosion of traditional culture which result from the Indonesian government's approach to development in West Kalimantan as elsewhere in the country have yet to be addressed. Instead, leading figures in the regime have taken the opportunity to look for scapegoats amongst journalists, students, the pro-democracy movement and other shadowy figures who want to threaten Indonesia's stability in the run-up to May's elections.

Week-ending 16th Feb: Maj-Gen Namuri Anum - reponsible for security in WKal - said 68 people had been detained on suspicion of criminal actions during the area's clashes, but did not give details of their identities (ST21/2).

Feb 17th: Jakarta: Army Chief of Staff Hartono says he has proof 'notables from E. Java' stirred up the trouble and will be dealt with. Ministry of Information sends letter warning Japanese journalists to be more careful in their reporting. (KdP) 300 dead; tens of thousands of evacuees have not yet returned. (K) Officials say traditional ceremonies and peace talks to ease tension have been held (KdP 18/2).

Karangan: military checkpoint failed to prevent six trucks and buses carrying hundreds of armed Dayaks headed south toward Toho going to Madurese settlement at Suap (AT20/2).

Areas north of Anjungan, 55 km NE of Pontianak, and east of Mandor, 70 km N of Pontianak, still under Dayak control with minimal military presence. Dayak checkpoints every few km to Ngabang, 81 km E of Mandor (ST21/2).

Feb 18th: Pontianak: Official peace ceremony held with community representatives of all ethnic groups and military. 1,000 people attended (ST 21/2). Only one Dayak representative (a govt official) involved in ceremony (AT20/2) and few in crowd. Curfew in Pontianak lifted (ST19/2).

Suap: 3,000 Dayaks congregated at Toho. Went to Suap on foot thro' jungle. Death toll reported at 15, five severely injured; 98 houses burnt. Military sent four truckloads of soldiers from Pontianak to secure the situation. (AT 20/2)

Sungai Kunyit:60 km NW of Pontianak, Merdeka daily reported military arrested 86; 107 houses torched; more than 1,000 fled. Security forces (Batillion 643 Wanara Sakti; 612 Modang) confiscated 21 muskets and 96 bladed weapons.12 detained by military; rest in police detention. 'Dozens might have died...most of the casualties Madurese' (ST). 17 dead (Forum).

Feb 19th: Jakarta: Human Rights Comission Sec. Gen Lopa says full inquiry into the viloence will wait until peace talks in Pontianak are extended to the villages. Independent estimates of the scale difficult to obtain due to military clampdown on the region.

Feb 20th: Fears that peace pact won't hold. Only at top level.

50 km to north of Pontianak (Sungai Kunyit?) At least 20 more deaths overnight (SMH 20/2)

Sei Duri: SMH (22/2) witnessed Dayak attack on Madurese settlement. Houses burned; occupants fled. Many, many died. Refugees taken by military to safe camp about 30 km N along coast road. Dayaks clearly control the interior. Calls for support - red cup of war - spreading across Dayak communities of all 4 provinces. Solidarity 'good' amongst 1 million Dayak (SMH 20/2) Armed Dayaks patrol roads to north and east of Pontianak from Tobo (40km N) to Bengkayang (160km N). Dayak road blocks every few km for 300km in NW up toward Sarawak border. (AT20/2) Many are from interior, not local. Troops sent overnight to Sungaikunyit where large numbers of Dayaks had gathered. (SMH) Dayak talk of hunting Madurese thro' forests and drinking their blood, and reports of ritual cannibalism. Dozens of Madurese settlements burned to ground in last month. People painted "Melayu" across their homes. (AT, SMH 20&22,AW) 3,000 troop reinforcements have been sent (over the last two months?) inc. Batalyon Linud 623 Madang, Brimob from EKal and troops from Kostrad Jakarta (Forum 1/3). Journalists confined to Pontianak. 'Local newspapers have been directed not to publish pictures and descriptions of the carnage.'(SMH 22/2)

This is a time bomb. It can explode at any minute. (AT 20/2) But according to Forum (1/3), things were returning to normal apart from Sungaikunyit incident by the middle of the month. Roads were opening up to traffic. Major-Gen Anum "deeply concerned" about Tuesday's clash (18th Feb). Clashes were "only sporadic" (ST21/2). Human Rights Commission investigating reports of large numbers of missing Madurese.

Jakarta: International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID), network of approximately eighty Indonesian and overseas NG0s calls for independent team to be appointed into cause and solution of conflict. Also demands govt figures on missing and dead.

Surabaya: religious leaders from Madura who visited Sanggau Ledo (in early Feb?) were angry about army statements that they had contributed to tension in the region.(SM)

22nd Feb: Jakarta: Kompas reports Armed forces commander Gen Feisal Tanjung used WKal troubles as example of activities of opposition groups, namely the People's Democracy Party, PRD, the United Democracy Party of Indonesia, PUDI, and the Indonesian People's Alliance, MARI. Told reporters that the situation in the country is secure and stable and people need not worry about anything. Nothing is happening in Wkal: "There were indeed problems in West Kalimantan but now that all the parties have been brought together, the matter has been resolved. Called on Indonesian press to refute reports in foreign press which are spreading negative issues about Indonesia. (NB No Indonesian press reports on conferences since 20th Feb!)

26 Feb: Pontianak: WKal governor Aspar Aswin said situation is improving. Peace settlement should be signed as soon as possible. Hopes conflict will not affect general election.

28/2 Rep: W.Kal Gov reported to Interior Ministry in Jkt that life in Sanggau Ledo returning to normal. Distribution of basic food supplies going ahead well. Hoped situation would have returned to normal before the elections and that would not affect elections in the region. Admitted still 'minor problems' in the interior. Attributed this to people coming in from the mountains who didn't know of recent (peace) developments. Would not comment on when troops would be withdrawn or involvement of National Human Rights Commission. Said a peace settlement would be circulated amongst all Dayak communities, but govt had no hand in drawing this up. Said draft would be given to him and the Commission. Said community education would be intensified, including amonst migrants. Refuted suggestions that indigenous people were against incomers or that they had been displaced by them. Claimed his meeting with religious leaders from Madura was useful.

28/2 (British journalist based in Jkt) It is pretty difficult at the moment. Many of the contacts we spoke to in Pontianak are being given a hard time by the military, and I don't think we would be welcomed back. CNN has just gone in but they went everywhere in the company of the military, which of course makes our lives that much more difficult because the military will argue that if CNN are willing to accept those conditions, then so should we. I will be interested to see what CNN produces, but my expectations aren't high.

1st Mar: (AW) Troubles have left tens of thousands of refugees and at least 17 troops dead. Catholic research foundation in Pontianak said 7,000 still seeking refuge with the military; at least 3,000 had returned to Madura. (Guardian 3/5) Witnesses in Pontianak report hundreds of Madurans leaving the province by boat as well as refugees still holed up in the dense tropical jungles after fleeing attacks on their homes.(SMH5/3) WKal gov Aspar Aswin said in Jkt (26/2) that death toll was 200 and damage caused Rp 25 billion. Local govt would provide Rp4 for reparations.(MI2/3)

1st Mar: Singkawang: visit by military leader Namuri. Troops are confiscating arms. Unrest confined now to looting and burning of abandoned homes. Local adminstrator for Sambas said 8,000 refugees still receiving food supplies. Hopes they can return home in 2 months. (K3/3)

1/2 March: (SMH 5/3) Another clash: up to 17 people dead. (No other details, but Guardian 5/3 mentions reports of at least 20 killed in the last week).

2nd Mar: (Forum2/3) Official peace ceremony not effective as Dayaks don't feel involved. Need to carry out own traditional ceremonies to quiet 'war spirit', said local official. Will take at least a week. Apart from Sungaikunyit incident, situation was generally calming down from mid-Feb. Traffic was picking up between towns; Pontianak Kuching road open. Troops still everywhere and evidence of destruction in evidence along roadsides.

3rd Mar: Sanggau: Two community leaders sent out 228 'red cups' to all villages in the district in ceremony witnessed by military and govt officials as traditional command to make peace.

3rd March: Results of investigation by the Indonesian Youth Forum (done 7-14 Feb). Documented almost 500 homes destroyed along 70-kilometre stretch Anjungan-Ngabang N of Pontianak. The group said about 1,200 people still missing from the scene of the worst fighting (Rep 3/3)

Pontianak: New peace ceremony held between Maduran and Dayak leaders (SMH 5/3).

7th March: Head of the National Intelligence Coordination Agency, Lieutenant General Moetojib stated that the security situation in W. Kalimantan could now be controlled by the security forces. Whether all community groups in West Kalimantan were prepared to live with each other was now the critical issue. (K8/97)

The aftermathAccording to Sambas local government, 1,094 buildings were destroyed. The most destruction was in Salamalantan followed by Sanggau Ledo, Bengkayang and Tujuhbelas areas. The number of refugees was 5,173 plus around 1,200 who were flown to a camp in Pontianak by the airforce. Material losses were estimated at Rp 13.56 billion (K 13/1).

"The reconciliation of the two ethnic groups is only at the top level, it never touches the people at the grassroots," the Dayak source said. The Dayak source said the bloody campaign was motivated by the tradition of "payback". He said Madurese migrants had taken over the Dayaks' land, had better access to political power, were treated favourably by police in disputes and were rarely punished for past attacks on Dayaks. Development policies have had a devastating impact on their subsistence farming methods but they have been given no alternative skills to compensate for displacement from their land. SMH20/2

The tension has slowed economic activity in the restricted areas. "All the ethnic groups are suffering. The economy is at a halt, and all our development efforts hang in the balance. We have regressed 30 years," said MH Hambali, a Madurese member of parliament in Pontianak.(AT20/2)

"Dayak elders remain steadfast that they will not tolerate Madurese presence in the area any longer and that there will be no peace until all Madurese have left the region," the source said. (ST21/2)

Only one regional head in the whole of West Kalimantan is Dayak, and in some majority Dayak towns the Madurans are in control."I warned the Government that something like this would happen," says an official."I believe we need to adjust development policy. In reality policies don't support the Dayaks. The Government says they should go to school but a school in a Dayak area might have only two teachers for six classes. This is because the teachers are Muslims and don't like living near the Dayaks, who eat pork and keep dogs."So the effect is the Dayaks' human resources are very low and they don't have the qualifications to compete."It is then, he says, that the Dayaks revert to their own laws: harsh, bloody and uncompromising. (SMH 21/2)

28/2: (British journalist) Things have calmed down a bit in West Kalimantan though it clearly isn't over. Strangely the young Dayaks don' talk much about their economic position - they are much more vocal about their culture, and the Madurese insensitivity towards it. They are very single minded about the Madurese -they have to go. They don't talk about problems with other groups, who have been left alone, and they are definitely not anti-Indonesia - yet. Their pan-Dayakism hasn't translated into separatism yet. They impressed me with their seriousness and thoroughness, though the whole headhunting thing is hard to comprehend.

The Ministry of Information now requires foreign journalists to apply for travel permits to enter the province – which puts West Kalimantan in the same "troubled" category as East Timor, Irian Jaya and Aceh. Casting off that label could take years. (AW1/3)

2/3Tempo (P. Florus - Institute of Dayakology Research and Development - IDRD). Many Madurese in W. Kal are migrants - follow family or friends rather than govt trans schemes. Occupy low position in society - badly paid labouring jobs. Indigenous community 'confused' by drastic changes in their environment over the last 30 yrs. Their ancestral forests, mountains and rivers had been occupied by 'foreigners'. They were called 'anti-development' and depicted as cutting down trees, opening land up for farming, burning forests, illegal loggers, illegal gold miners, whereas it was incomers doing this. This had made Dayak community close in on itself. (Forum 2/3) Stephanus Djuweng, Director IDRD, said cultural differences were important. These differences are never discussed and so lead to conflict.

What has the Indonesian Govt learnt? 17/2 JP: The Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL) attacked the government Saturday for allowing a coal mining firm to control 100,000 hectares of a Kalimantan national park. ICEL executive director Mas Achmad Santosa charged that the government had, once again, violated the laws it made to protect forests and the natural riches therein.

28/2 SP: Jakarta W Kal gov Aspar Aswin explained how some transmigration projects could create social tension in some groups e.g if local people are not given opportunity to live on transmigration site and have same access to facilities. Or if local communities affected byt projects are given priority for transmigration, by nearby ones aren't. In poor areas locals should have more chance to become voluntary transmigrants and trans sites should provide work and training.