Fri, 19 Mar 1999

Madurese flee villages in West Kalimantan

JAKARTA (JP): Some 1,200 migrant Madurese in West Kalimantan's Pemangkat subdistrict of Sambas regency have fled their villages to avoid more clashes with locals, Antara reported on Thursday.

Quoting West Kalimantan Police chief Col. Chaerul Rasjidi, the agency said the refugees were temporarily sheltered at the coastal Pasir Panjang area in Singkawang, 145 kilometers north of the capital, Pontianak.

The number of refugees increased from an initial 500 after another clash broke out on Tuesday. They would soon be moved to Pontianak, the police chief said.

Chaerul could not confirm local reports of three deaths, saying he had to first report to National Police chief Gen. Roesmanhadi. A number of homes were also reportedly torched.

Local police in Sambas precinct said their chief, Lt. Col. M. Nurdin, was not available for comment.

A military officer in Sambas told The Jakarta Post the situation was under control. He said the violence was similar to that which occurred in Tebas subdistrict on Feb 21.

"It's the same story ... it's calm now," chief of the local military command's intelligence unit, Capt. J.E. Simanjuntak, said. He was reluctant to give more information.

He confirmed the number of refugees and that they would be transferred to Pontianak.

The violence came shortly after a display of solidarity between West Kalimantan residents and Madurese, when West Kalimantan provincial legislature members symbolically handed over generators to traditional Muslim boarding schools in Pamekasan, Madura, to ease the impact of the electricity blackout there.

Last month a number Madurese and Malay locals were killed in sporadic clashes in Sambas regency.

Bus fare

On Wednesday, Reuters quoted a police officer as saying Tuesday's violence was triggered by the refusal of a bus passenger to pay his fare to the driver, a Madurese. The clashes last month were caused by a similar incident, however the driver was a Malay and the passenger was from Madura.

"The passenger got into a fight with the driver. After that groups from either side attacked each other's villages and the burning spread to neighboring towns," the news agency quoted the police officer as saying.

In 1997, Madurese clashed with indigenous Dayaks in Sambas hinterland subdistricts. At least 300 were killed.

Meanwhile, in the Kampar regency of Riau, one person was killed and at least 25 houses were torched. The deceased was identified as Ucok, 40.

The homeless victims left for nearby Pasir Pangaraian town to take refuge, while authorities investigated the incident.

The violence occurred in the early hours of Thursday in Dalu- dalu village, Antara reported.

A local community figure said the violence broke out after some migrant plantation workers attacked the village.

Earlier, villagers evicted the workers for plowing the land, on which they had planned to plant oil palms. The source, Al Azhar, questioned whether the private plantation company was involved because attackers had reportedly come in company trucks.

Kampar police chief Lt. Col. Iskandar Zulkarnain said the situation had returned to normal.

In Irian Jaya, Antara reported violence broke out Monday and Tuesday when an armed "security disturbance" group attacked villagers in Muting subdistrict of Merauke regency.

Four people were injured, including an Army officer, Second Lt. Daswad. The other three were civilians. (aan)