Thu, 11 Mar 1999

Deserted Ambon homes targeted for phone abuse

JAKARTA (JP): Many Ambon residents whose properties were burned or damaged in the two months of unrest in the Maluku capital now find themselves with the additional burden of hefty phone bills from misuse by others.

Fitri, whose house in the Silale area was burned down by rioters in January, was shocked when state-owned telecommunications firm PT Telkom billed her for Rp 8 million (US$888) instead of the usual Rp 200,000 the previous month.

"I went to Telkom to meet my responsibilities although my house was burned. But I was shocked by the amount," she told Antara.

The news agency describe how people were able to use the telephone cables in abandoned buildings to make calls after Telkom failed to cut the lines.

Many of the 15,000 people who fled Ambon overlooked the need to block their lines.

Telkom expressed little sympathy for the owners.

"They are still obliged to pay," said the head of the city Telkom office Daud Kastanya.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Council of Ulemas (MUI) secretary- general Ikhwan Syam and the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (MUI) secretary-general J.M. Pattiasina have jointly urged communities in Maluku to stop denouncing each other. They agreed violence in the province would continue unless there was more respect for different faiths.

"We do not need to condemn and blame each other, but let us ask ourselves what we can do to resolve the conflicts," said Ikhwan and Pattiasina in a statement, as reported by Antara on Wednesday.

The two leaders visited Ambon to witness the departure of 240 people to Buru and Seram islands in Central Maluku in the transmigration program.

"Hatred and revenge will not solve our problem," they said.

Ikhwan said the council was under fire for its consistent refusal to declare a jihad to defend Muslims in Maluku.

He warned of greater danger if the demand for a holy war was met in an outburst of emotion.

"Violence cannot be resolved with violence," Pattiasina added.

In Jakarta, at least 1,000 senior high school students grouped in the Indonesian Muslim Students United Actions staged a peaceful rally at the National Monument (Monas) park on Wednesday, condemning the killing of Muslims in Ambon.

Dressed in their school uniforms and unfurling posters and banners, the students marched from the organization's office in Menteng, Central Jakarta, to the park, located near the presidential palace.

The students demanded President B.J. Habibie, Armed Forces chief Gen. Wiranto and National Police chief Gen. Roesmanhadi end the violence before the Muslim Idul Adha day of sacrifice which falls on March 28.

The students submitted their statement to one of the palace guards after they were not allowed to move closer to the palace.

In Purwokerto, Central Java, local military chief Col. M. Noer Muis appealed to Muslims in the regency not to be provoked by fliers distributed by irresponsible parties. The documents called on them to prepare for a battle against Christians who killed Muslims in Maluku.

"The purpose of the fliers is merely to incite a conflict between Muslims and Christians," the colonel said.

In Yogyakarta, sociologist Cornelis Lay warned that the danger of prolonged hostilities in Maluku could spill over to an individual level.

"The fall of a victim in one village will provoke revenge from residents of other villagers," Cornelis said on Wednesday. (jun/44/45/43/prb)