Tue, 22 Aug 2000

Gus Dur to witness peace agreement signing in Poso

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid is scheduled to visit the riot-torn city of Poso in Central Sulawesi on Tuesday to witness the signing of a peace agreement between leaders of the Muslim and Christian communities.

The governors of four Sulawesi provinces will also meet Abdurrahman in the Central Sulawesi capital of Palu, Antara reported Monday.

The report did not give details of the peace agreement or who would be brokering them.

South Sulawesi Governor H.Z.B. Palaguna was quoted as saying they would report to the President results of their meeting to find ways of dealing with the refugee problem and to halt the sectarian violence.

Palace officials confirmed that the President would visit Poso on Tuesday where sectarian clashes have forced thousands to flee to Palu and other towns in the four Sulawesi provinces.

The news agency quoted a spokesman for the Central Sulawesi administration, Longki Djanggola, as confirming the visit adding that President Abdurrahman would be accompanied by his wife Sinta Nuriyah and Minister for Home Affairs Surjadi Soedirdja.

Indonesian Military Chief Adm. Widodo A.S, National Police Chief Gen. Rusdihardjo and the head of the Makassar-based Wirabuana Military Command, Maj. Gen. Achmad Yahya, would also join the entourage, Longki said.

The President will fly to Palu from Jakarta and then proceed to Poso on board an Army helicopter.

He is scheduled to stay for 150 minutes in Poso and will witness the signing of a peace agreement by the traditional leaders from both camps of the sectarian conflict.

In their meeting at the lake resort town of Tentena in Central Sulawesi on Aug. 13, the four governors agreed to seek assistance from the central government for the refugees.

Assistance would be sought to rebuild public facilities that have been damaged or destroyed in the months of clashes between Muslims and Christians, and to build temporary shelters for the returning refugees.

The governors also agreed to try and return all refugees to Poso and assist the reconciliation efforts undertaken by the Central Sulawesi authorities.

Muslim-Christian clashes first erupted in Poso in April after a minor scuffle. The dispute quickly degenerated into clashes between members of the Christian and Muslim communities.

After a lull of several weeks, violence broke out again in May. The wave of clashes between Muslims and Christians have already left more than 200 people dead and more than 5,000 buildings destroyed. (byg)