Mon, 24 Apr 2000

PGI asks govt to act on Poso rioting

JAKARTA (JP): The Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI) called on authorities to keep a close eye on Central Sulawesi following recent riots in Poso, warning the area could be used as a springboard to incite unrest in neighboring Maluku.

"We are concerned by the possibility that the acts of violence in Poso could be used to turn Central Sulawesi, particularly regencies and district in the eastern part of the province, into a springboard for certain groups to enter Maluku and North Maluku," it said in a statement here on Saturday.

PGI called on the National Police and the Indonesian Military to watch the area carefully, both on land and sea. It further urged authorities to ensure that a repetition of the violence in Poso did not occur.

The group asked for a thorough probe into the unrest in Poso to discover the motives behind the sectarian clash.

Poso was hit by violence last week following a dispute between groups of teenagers from Lambogia and Kayamanya villages. The ensuing riot continued for four days despite the deployment of around 300 soldiers to the area.

Six people were killed in the unrest, 31 others were injured, 200 houses and buildings were damaged and some 2,000 people were forced to flee the area.

A church, two Christian high schools, one elementary school and a police dormitory were among the buildings burned down during the rioting.

In the statement, signed by PGI secretary-general J.M. Pattiasina, the group expressed fear the Poso incident would ignite further unrest using religious symbols across the country.

Meanwhile, residents of riot-torn villages in Poso, both Muslim and Christian, continued to trickle into military installations on Saturday.

Antara reported that the number of displaced people taking shelter in military barracks belonging to 711 Company in Kawua district alone has reached 2,200, and quadrupled since the first wave of refugees arrived on Monday.

Hundreds of people living in Bukit Bambu village, which was unaffected by the rioting, were also seen flocking into the refugee camp. Some of them said they would not return home until security and order in the town was restored.

"We've been haunted by rumors that our village will be burned down like Lambogia and Kasintuwu villages," one of the Bukit Bambu residents told Antara.

Commander of the company 711 Capt. Wahyu said that most of the refugees were women and children. He said there were still enough rooms for the displaced people in the barracks.

"No problem, there are enough places to take shelter. But we need help because we lack sanitary facilities, food and clothes," Wahyu said. He added no serious diseases were reported thus far.

The military has also provided shelters for refugees in the compounds of the district military office, Tagolu and Tempera military posts.

The local administration office reported that at least four tons of rice and hundreds boxes of instant noodles have been distributed to the refugees. (01/dja)