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Local elite blamed for Maluku's continuing violence

Jakarta Post - December 19, 2012

Bambang Muryanto, Yogyakarta – Research has indicated that the violent actions of a local elite in Maluku to gain political and economic benefits after the signing of the Malino Declaration peace pact in 2002 has partly accounted for continuing violence in the province.

The findings of the research were made public on Tuesday at the launch of a book entitled "Seusai Perang Komunal: Memahami Kekerasan Pasca Konflik di Indonesia Timur dan Upaya Penangannya" (After Communal War: Understanding Violence After the Conflict in Eastern Indonesia and Efforts to Deal With It).

The book was written by two researchers of Gadjah Mada University's (UGM) Center for Peace and Security Studies (PSKP), Muhammad Najib Azca and Tri Susdinarjanti, and a doctoral student of Oxford University, Patrick Barron.

"We looked into local aspects to see the roots of the violence, which persists in Maluku," Najib said. The authors, according to Najib, looked into three local factors: the elite, the community and the environment, to study why instances of the deadly violence had been more frequent in Maluku than in North Maluku province, after the conflict in both regions.

The North Maluku conflict took place from August 1999 until June 2000 and claimed 3,257 lives, while the Maluku conflict ran from January 1999 to February 2002 and claimed 2,793 lives.

The researchers noted that during the eight years following the peace agreement, there had been 51 violent acts committed in Maluku, killing 133. While in North Maluku there had been only 11 violent acts that killed 11 people.

Najib disagreed with the view that the violence in Maluku was the result of the political games played by the elite in Jakarta, which he said was just a scapegoat for the violence.

Najib said the research found that the local elite in Maluku used violence as a strategy to prevent the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) from investigating corruption cases involving the local elite. In North Maluku, on the other hand, the elite tended not to use the same methods to secure their political and economic interests.

Tri Susdinarjanti added that in North Maluku, people were fed up with conflict, were willing to open up to reconstruction and give a role to custom institutions to strengthen interfaith and interethnic ties.

Philosopher Aholiab Watloly of Patimura University in Ambon, Maluku, said the stigmatization of the South Maluku Republic (RMS) group further accounted for Maluku's continuing violence. "The government has acted only as a firefighter," Aholiab told the discussion forum.