Sun, 06 Feb 2000

Bali's ethnic Chinese living in state of fear

DENPASAR, Bali (JP): Chief of the Udayana Military Command Maj. Gen. Kiki Syahnakri appealed to Chinese-Indonesians to remain calm despite rumors of imminent unrest targeting their property.

Speaking to religious leaders and local figures in Denpasar on Friday, Kiki acknowledged the rumors circulating in the community in the last week.

"I call on all the Balinese, including Chinese-Indonesians, to be calm and not to be easily provoked by any kinds of terrorization and rumor," he said.

Many Chinese-Indonesian families have been terrified after finding crosses painted on their fences, which also was reportedly done to ethnic Chinese residence before the bloody May riots in Jakarta and other cities in May 1998.

Anonymous leaflets were later distributed stating that crosses in red meant the buildings would be burned, while green crosses indicated the property would be vandalized or looted.

A Chinese-Indonesian, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the signs were painted on many houses and buildings along Jl. Suli, Jl. Gunung Agung, Jl. Gatot Subroto and Jl. Jend. Sudirman. "We washed the signs off soon after we saw them," he said.

Other residents said they were accustomed to hearing rumors of the burning of mosques, churches and other places of worship, and that there would be unrest on the Lunar New Year which fell on Saturday.

However, the celebration in Denpasar was peaceful. "No violence, no riots. This means that the rumormongers just wanted to make unrest among us," another Chinese-Indonesian man said.

Kiki said the security forces were fully aware of the terrorization and were ready to anticipate violence.

"The Udayana Military Command is ready to help the police with troops to maintain peace in Bali.

"We found five houses belonging to Chinese-Indonesians which had the signs, and the other signs were found at buildings belonging to non-Chinese families," he said.

"I have instructed my subordinates to have those found spreading the terror arrested and questioned about what they really want."

There are fears Bali will be the next target of communal clashes following unrest in Mataram, the main city in Lombok, last month. (zen/sur)