Tue, 15 Aug 2000

Poso back to normal after signing of peace accord

POSO, Central Sulawesi (JP): The town of Poso returned to normal on Monday following the signing of a peace accord by Sulawesi governors the day before and the deployment of Cinta Damai (Love of Peace) special troops from the Wirabuana Regional Military Command since June.

Vendors and shop owners looked busy serving customers, while government employees were back in their offices. The traffic flow on most of the roads was also back to normal after being blocked for months.

The peace campaign launched by the 1,000 Cinta Damai troops has likely succeeded in calming down the warring groups, and reducing tension in the town.

Some people were seen sitting on their verandas taking the fresh air in the evening. This has become a rare scene since mayhem erupted in the area last year.

"In general the situation is not yet 100 percent normal. But, we can feel the pulse now. There are positive signs," Lt. Agussalim, spokesman for the Cinta Damai troops, told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

He said the troops had helped the police to search for weapons from among the residents and to locate the victims. "We have so far found some 270 deceased."

He acknowledged that most of the refugees were not yet willing to return home for various reasons. "Most of them said they were still suffering from trauma."

Toding, one of the refugees being housed at the Poso police precinct, admitted that many of them were still worried about their safety in their home districts.

Unlike Poso, the vacant villages located at the former frontline remained tense on Monday. Everywhere were the ruins of buildings, which had been ravaged and burned down during the riots.

Central Sulawesi Police chief Brig. Gen. Soeroso said the police would not reduce the number of police and military personnel in Poso, despite the improved atmosphere.

"We will, instead, send more police mobile brigade troops from Pare-Pare in South Sulawesi," Soeroso said, adding that he had just consulted with his colleagues in South Sulawesi.


In an effort to maintain peace and support the peace deal signed by the Sulawesi governors, Soeroso said the police would take firm measures against those trying to rock the boat.

"I herewith announce that we'll take stiff action against all those instigating chaos. They will become the enemy of all Sulawesi people."

Poso City Police chief Supt. Djasman Baso Opu shared Soeroso's opinion, calling on all refugees, who are now dispersed throughout Sulawesi's four provinces, to return to their homes.

Three Sulawesi governors inked a peace deal for Poso in Tentena, some 55 kilometers south of capital Palu, on Sunday.

North Sulawesi Governor A.J. Sondakh, H.Z.B. Palaguna of South Sulawesi and Central Sulawesi Governor G.B. Paliudju attended the meeting, initiated by Palaguna.

Southeast Sulawesi Governor Laode Kaimuddin had to remain in the provincial capital of Kendari to supervise the preparations for welcoming President Abdurrahman Wahid, who visited Kendari on Monday.

The peace accord recommends security guarantees for refugees, psychological and infrastructural rehabilitation and fair law enforcement.

At least 60,000 Poso residents have been forced to seek safety in various places throughout Sulawesi since the sectarian conflict broke out in Poso last year. The most destructive disturbances took place on May 23 this year, when around 300 people were killed. (27/sur)