In common letters to Indonesia's National Human Rights Commission, KOMNAS HAM, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, and the German Minister of Foreign Affairs seven Indonesian and German organizations urged on the necessity to send another independent fact finding mission to the City of Banjarmasin, the capital of the Indonesian South Kalimantan province.
The signatory organizations, namely the South East Asia Information Centre, Germany, the Association of Indonesian Students in Germany (PPI Pusat Jerman), the New Guinea Working Group, Netherlands, the Alliance of the Independant Indonesian Youth (API), Germany, the Indonesian Democratic Union Party in Germany (PUDI Jerman), the Indonesia Forum for Human Dignity (INFOHD), Netherlands, and Watch Indonesia!, Germany, say that on May 23, 1997, in Banjarmasin at least 123 persons have died after a clash between masses loyal to the United Development Party (PPP) and people loyal to the governing 'Functional Group' Golkar. It was the bloodiest incident in a series of clashes during the recent election campaign in Indonesia which altogether caused the death of about 300 people.
Official speakers claimed that the victims died when they wanted to plunder the Mitra Plaza shopping mall. Officials say, the plunderers weren't able to escape after the mall was set on fire.
However, press reports and eye-witnesses doubt this version that denies any link to a clash caused by arguments between different political parties.
According to unverified sources military forces followed the order to shoot on sight released after the riots broke out. It is reported that quite a number of shot bodies were carried into the burning Mitra Plaza in order to extinguish traces of shootings and to suggest that these people had died in the fire.
The Indonesian National Human Rights Commission, KOMNAS HAM, in a first report confirmed the assumption, that the clash was politically motivated. The commission also criticized that precaution and security measures in the whole election campaign were insufficient. However, the commission's report doesn't give answers to a whole bunch of questions.
Appreciating the fact that KOMNAS HAM immediately has sent a fact finding team to Banjarmasin to investigate the case, the seven organizations say the commission's report is insufficient to explain the high number of casualties and the lots of contradictive findings. A more detailed investigation was highly necessary and its precise results should be made public, the organizations say.