Tue, 14 May 2002

'FKM, Laskar Jihad not the root of conflict'

Annastashya Emmanuelle and Oktovianus P., The Jakarta Post, Jakarta/Ambon

Leaders of the National Moral Movement cross-religious group urged the government on Monday to launch an investigation into the years of bloodshed in Maluku as they believe the presence of Laskar Jihad and the Maluku Sovereignty Forum (FKM) is the mere tip of a bigger problem.

According to the Movement, both the native Muslim and Christian groups in Maluku are longing for peace and willing to comply with the Malino II peace agreement, yet elements from outside the area have triggered new conflicts with a further loss of life.

"A thorough investigation is needed to find out the mastermind (of the conflict). Both the Laskar Jihad and FKM is not necessarily the root-cause," Hasyim Muzadi, chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, the country's largest Muslim organization, told reporters after meeting Vice President Hamzah Haz at the latter's office.

As the people in Maluku lost trust in each other, they became prone to provocation and resorted to retaliation after an incident, which was usually not investigated thoroughly by the security apparatus, Hasyim said.

"There is always a possibility that a conflict is properly planned ... it's the government's responsibility to investigate this," he said, adding that if the government failed to bring peace to Ambon, it signified the government's failure to protect its people.

Peace has yet to be permanently restored in Maluku despite the peace agreement signed on Feb. 12 in the South Sulawesi town of Malino. The worst violence broke out late in April when a group of armed people killed 12 people in Soya village, near the provincial capital of Ambon.

Ismartono, who represented the Indonesian Council of Bishops (KWI) at the meeting, said people in Ambon told the visiting members of the movement that perpetrators of the Soya violence were outsiders.

"They said, the (perpetrators) didn't use the local language, and that no Ambonese would have the capability of destroying a village in such a short time," Ismartono told reporters.

According to the assessment of the Movement, the Malino II peace deal was aimed at resolving the sectarian conflict but it did not address the conflict between people and the state.

Earlier, during the opening ceremony of the Laskar Jihad Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah congress, Hamzah supported the group's demand for stiff measures against FKM as a condition for the former's withdrawal from Maluku.

He said Laskar Jihad could be pulled out if the government could guarantee the safety of Muslims in Maluku.

"Of course action must be taken against FKM first and after the Muslims are no longer threatened, the Laskar Jihad must also obey (orders to leave the area)," Hamzah said.

Hamzah has drawn controversy for visiting Laskar Jihad leader Ja'far Umar Thalib, who was arrested for allegedly provoking violence in Ambon. The government has insisted on phasing out of Laskar Jihad from Maluku and taking actions against FKM in a bid to restore peace in the province.

Ambon remained tense on Monday following Sunday's bombing in the Diponegoro-Mangga Dua Ambon area which left a civilian dead and a military officer severely injured. Security forces arrested eight men, including six Laskar Jihad members, in the incident over possession of arms and bombs.

Angry masses burned the house of Thamrin Ely, who represented Muslims in the Malino peace talks, and a speedboat belonging to the provincial administration after police refused to release the detainees.

"We truly regret the burning of Thamrin Ely's official residence, and the Mutiara speedboat, which is normally used to fetch VIP guests," spokesman for the Maluku administration, Izack Saimima, said on Monday.