Wed, 31 Mar 1999

Madurese refugees get relief from WVI

JAKARTA (JP): Humanitarian relief has started to flow to over 30,000 Madurese refugees in West Kalimantan's capital of Pontianak and its surroundings, Antara reported on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Governor Aspar Aswin said the local administration was considering where to relocate the refugees.

Officials from Jakarta -- including National Police chief Gen. Roesmanhadi, Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare and Poverty Eradication Haryono Suyono -- and a team of the House of Representatives visited the area to learn about the recent unrest.

The news agency said the internationally linked World Vision Indonesia (WVI) humanitarian organization provided refugees with a number of essential daily needs and medical support.

"I've consulted with the provincial health office on kinds of medicines needed by refugees," WVI representative in Pontianak Sudarmo Tandijono was quoted as saying on Monday.

Another foreign country which has pledged to send humanitarian relief for the refugees -- mostly women and children -- is Germany, the news agency reported.

The refugees are victims of recent unrest that pit Madurese in Sambas against local Malays, who were later joined by indigenous Dayak tribespeople and supported by migrant Bugis and local Chinese-Indonesians.

At least 200 were killed in the clashes that broke out over two weeks ago in the regency, which lies 250 kilometers north of Pontianak.

Antara reported that the provincial administration's notion to relocate the refugees to Ketapang regency -- over 350 kilometers south of Pontianak -- had been rejected by locals.

Governor Aspar Aswin said the relocation of Madurese would be carefully planned so as not to invoke new problems for other locals in the province.

In a meeting with Roesmanhadi in Pontianak, Madurese community figure Hambali said he objected to Madurese in West Kalimantan being called migrants who had to be returned to their hometowns on Madura, an island off the coast of East Java.

"We are West Kalimantan Madurese, we've been here for generations. We're not Bangkalan Madurese. I was born here," he said. Bangkalan is a town in Madura.

In the meeting, Bugis community figure Preslandi also suggested that the Madurese be resettled in other areas, but maintained that they should not be removed from the province as it would set a bad precedent.

Dayak elder Rachmat Sahudin blamed the few Madurese who did not assimilate and were less willing to blend in with other residents.

"But this is not a fault of one certain ethnic group, but the responsibility of us all," he said.

Sociologist Syarif Ibrahim Alqadrie of the University of Tanjungpura suggested that the police should act immediately to settle individuals' disputes before they turned into ethnic violence.

Meanwhile, the situation in Pontianak on Tuesday was calm after claims that the town was tense following rumors that Madurese planned retaliation attacks in Pontianak.

"No night curfew is needed, but I agree that to stop Sambas riots from spreading, the police need to launch an operation against people carrying weapons," Roesmanhadi was quoted as saying.

In its visit on Tuesday, the House of Representatives' team led by House Deputy Speaker Fatimah Achmad told Governor Aspar not to be hasty in deciding on the relocation of the refugees.

"We suggest the local government be wise in deciding on new places for the refugees," she said as quoted by Antara.

In Yogyakarta, Madurese grouped in Yogyakarta Forum of Scholars and Families of Madura protested "hurtful" coverage of TVRI regarding the clashes.

The report said riots happened because of the arrogance of Madurese in Kalimantan, forum chairman Malik Madani said.

They demanded that TVRI apologize or else they would sue the state-run station. Forum secretary M. Mahfud said that in future the government should pay more attention to interethnic relations, and that the forum's protest reflected concern over other sites of carnage involving ethnic and religious friction. (aan/44)