Fri, 05 Dec 2003

Over 160 migrants seek safety

Rusman, The Jakarta Post, Samarinda, East Kalimantan

Following a recent clash between two groups of migrants, in which two people were killed and another injured, more than 160 migrants from West Nusa Tenggara are seeking refuge at the Samarinda Police station in fear of further violence.

East Kalimantan Police said they had arrested eight people accused of taking part in the brawl, which broke out on Nov. 30, and were questioning the suspects.

"We want to go home, but the police have yet to guarantee that we will be safe for the time being," migrant Najamuddin said on Wednesday.

"At least two houses belonging to our group have been looted by our rivals. It is good that they didn't vandalize them, but we are still shocked," he added.

The clash erupted between the West Nusa Tenggara migrants and a rival group of migrants from South Sulawesi, after a South Sulawesi man was killed in a verbal dispute involving drunken youths from the two groups.

The violence continued in another clash, in which one West Nusa Tenggara migrant was killed and another injured. The injured man, whose identity was not available, is receiving medical treatment at a local hospital.

Hatred among the two groups peaked, and on the following day, the South Sulawesi group attacked an area known to be populated mostly by West Nusa Tenggara migrants.

Police said there are at least 161 migrants seeking shelter at the station, consisting of 66 men, 64 women and 31 children. Most of the migrants work at local timber companies.

Dozens of other West Nusa Tenggara migrants are taking refuge in local neighborhoods.

The East Kalimantan social affairs office are providing clean water and food for the migrants.

Clashes between ethnic groups have become a sensitive issue in Kalimantan, where a series of bloody clashes involving Madurese migrants and indigenous peoples erupted in Central Kalimantan in 1998 and 2000, forcing thousands of Madurese to flee to other provinces. Many have refused to return to their Kalimantan homes.

There are about 4,600 migrants currently residing in the East Kalimantan capital of Samarinda.

East Kalimantan Governor Suwarna AF visited the migrants on Wednesday and asked them to remain calm.

"We have to maintain the peace here, and I ask all people to stop taking the law into their own hands.

"We should not take revenge against others, in order to prevent the situation from disintegrating," Suwarna said.

He appealed to the migrants to go home instead of returning to their place of origin.