Mon, 14 Apr 2003

Muslims plan to thwart rebel groups's celebration

Aziz Tunny, The Jakarta Post, Ambon, Maluku

The Muslim community in the Maluku capital of Ambon have vowed to foil the planned anniversary celebration of the South Maluku Republic (RMS) next week.

The Islam Defenders Front of Maluku (FPIM) has began pasting green leaflets on buildings in a predominantly-Muslim housing complex in Ambon, warning the Muslim community of the separatist movement.

The leaflets, signed by FPIM chairman and secretary Husni Putuhena and Ma'mun Pelu respectively, also call for jihad against any secessionist group and appeal to the Maluku people to help the Indonesian Military and the National Police maintain national integrity.

FPIM was responding to a plan by the Maluku Sovereignty Front (FKM) to celebrate the 54th anniversary of its affiliated group RMS on April 25,

FKM secretary-general Moses Tuanakota has said some 2,500 supporters of the organization would observe the anniversary by hoisting the RMS flag. Moses also called on the people to ignore the government ban on the anniversary celebration, saying the South Maluku Republic was legitimate as it had been registered with the United Nations.

RMS initiated an armed rebellion over disappointment with Jakarta in the 1950s, but was crushed by government troops.

The government and military have warned FKM supporters against celebrating the RMS anniversary.

FKM chairman Alex Manuputty was sentenced to three years in prison in January for plotting a rebellion in the Maluku Islands by inciting his supporters to raise RMS flags. He has been detained at the National Police since March 17 pending his appeal.

Separately, some 350 junior and senior high school students rallied on Saturday against the separatist movement in the province.

Students from 10 schools and activists of several Muslim organizations joined the peaceful demonstration. The participants claimed their move was supported by the Maluku chapter of the Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI).

Ahmad Ilham Sipahutar, who coordinated the rally, told The Jakarta Post that the demonstrators asked the acting governor of Maluku, who is concurrently the civil emergency administrator, Sinyo Harri Sarundayang, Pattimura military commander Maj. Gen. Agustadi and Maluku Police chief Brig. Gen. Bambang Sutrisno to take tough actions against RMS activists.

The separatist issue has resurfaced since the government brokered peace talks in February last year between Muslims and Christians to end three years of sectarian conflict in the islands. The bloodshed left some 6,000 people killed and hundreds of thousands of others displaced.

Masterminds of the sectarian riots remain at large and the government has not lifted the three-year-old civil emergency status in Maluku.

Meanwhile, Sarundayang said on Saturday the Maluku administration had called on the central government to pay special attention to the province's efforts to recover after a peace deal was signed to end communal clashes last year.

Sarundayang said that the government had responded to the request positively, considering the damage in economic and sociocultural fields inflicted by the conflict.

"The government is likely to issue a presidential decree on Maluku in the near future that will enable the province to develop both infrastructure and peace," he said.

He said Maluku deserved special treatment as it had experienced serious conflicts like Aceh and Papua.