Fri, 17 Nov 2000

Indonesia 'on brink of disintegration'

JAKARTA (JP): Indonesia is actually in the process of disintegration due to the government's failure to cope with conflicts in several parts of its territory, a political observer said on Thursday.

Soedjati Djiwandono of the Research Institute for Democracy and Peace (RIDeP) said the existing violence in restive Aceh, Maluku, North Maluku and Irian Jaya had a lot to do with growing public ignorance of social, religious and cultural values which used to bind the nation.

"If the national unity has to be maintained, the nation's pluralist character and heterogeneity must be accepted nationwide and all differences must be solved without violence," he said in a seminar on landscape of conflicts here on Thursday.

Soedjati opposed the repressive approach exercised by the government and security authorities to tackle conflicts in Aceh, Maluku, North Maluku and Irian Jaya, which had been proven ineffective to restore peace there.

"Both the government and security authorities must promote peace among conflicting parties. They must be able to give a guarantee that the local people in the restive provinces can live safely and social justice be upheld," he said.

According to him, all sides should be willing to pardon all past mistakes and work hard to build the nation anew.

He also regretted the fact that the Chinese ethnic minority have been blamed for the rampant collusion and corruption during the New Order era. Those of Chinese descent have also become the target of violence.

Unlike Soedjati, sociologist Sardjono Jatiman of the University of Indonesia said the series of riots and existing conflicts in certain provinces were actually part of the evolutionary process Indonesia must undergo to become a mature and civilized nation.

"We are now in the process toward a civilized nation," he said. The 1945 declaration of independence was the embryo of a civilized Indonesia, he added.

He said he was of the opinion that the recent riots and existing regional conflicts were the results of the New Order regime's uniform policy in all fields of the nation's life.

"With the uniform policy, local cultures were dismissed and people were barred from raising different opinions from the rulers, who considered people as inferior.

Dadan Umar Daihani, the newly inaugurated professor from Trisaksi University, presented in the seminar the sketch of the past riots. He suggested that the landscape be used as an early warning system to prevent future outbreaks of violence.

He said that based on a 1998 survey on the series of riots that erupted since 1997, a number of Chinese dominated trade areas in Jakarta, Surabaya, Medan and Solo, Central Java, were quite prone to riots.

"The landscape of riots is very useful for security authorities, especially the Police, to take anticipatory action against ethnic violence in the future," he said.

Agus Budi Purnomo, a research staff at the Trisakti University, said the prolonged violence in Aceh had a lot to do with the widening gap between the development of human resources and that of natural resources.

"The excessive exploration of natural resources in that province has sowed hatred among the Acehnese people while no actions have been made to improve their human resources. This has raised a separatist sentiment among the people," he said, referring to the series of Islamic rebellions in the past and the current separatist movement in the country's westernmost province.

The growing demand for independence in the province also resulted from the Acehnese people's disappointment with the government's failure to investigate past human rights abuses and to provide compensation for victims of the atrocities, he said. (rms)