Tue, 08 Feb 2000

Rebuilding begins in riot-torn Maluku

AMBON, Maluku (JP): The government has begun rebuilding 20 mosques and churches which were burned during the year-long sectarian clashes here.

Maluku Governor Saleh Latuconsina said here Monday the reconstruction project would include the repair of some 3,000 houses, traditional markets and other business centers in the provincial capital in a bid to revive its economy.

Speaking during his visit to the Maluku Protestant Church (GPM), he said part of the funds for this project came from the central government.

On Sunday, Saleh laid the corner stones which marked the start of the construction of houses of worship in Tawiri Batumerah and Passo villages here.

He said he would soon flag off the reconstruction projects in Air Putri, Waihaong, Batugantung and Pohon Pule villages, also in Ambon.

"The first priority is to rebuild the Silo Church and the An- Nur Mosque because each has already some Rp 150 million as basic capital, Rp 100 million of which will come from the central government and Rp 50 million from a personal contribution from the vice president," Saleh explained.

A peaceful atmosphere marked the ceremony, with local Christians and Moslems embracing and shaking hands with each other.

Under tight security, the governor laid a milestone at the Silo Church and did the same at the An-Nur Mosque, which is separated by only ten meters.

Accompanied by local community and religious leaders, Saleh also attended a ceremony at the Santo Yakobus chapel.

Among the attendees were chairman of Al Fatah Foundation, Abdullah Soulisa, Maluku's Indonesian Ulemas Council Chairman (MUI) R.R. Hasanussi and head of the Maluku-based Protestant Church Synod Sammy Titaley.

Shortly after the gathering, local community and religious leaders again on Sunday called on their congregations to stop the violence and begin living in peace as the first step towards a true reconciliation.

The eastern province of Maluku, known as the Spice Islands, has been rocked by bloody communal clashes between Christians and Muslims since January 1999, leaving more than 2,000 people dead.


Meanwhile the Ambon District Court sentenced on Monday an unemployed man, Syamsul Bahri Sangaji alias Soa, to 12 years imprisonment for premeditated murders of a female lecturer and her male companion last year.

Presiding judge F. Pataria said in his verdict that the 31- year-old defendant was proven guilty of killing Marlen Vitanala, a lecturer at the school of law at the Pattimura University and her fiance Lucas Paliama on March 1, 1999.

The bodies of Marlen and Lucas were found at the garbage dump site in Airkuning, some five kilometers east of here on March 2, 1999; the judge said that the report of post mortem examinations indicated the victims had been severely tortured.

The crime carries a maximum penalty of death, according to the Criminal Code.

The panel of judges said the murder had contributed to the heating sectarian conflict in the area.

A policeman and two other suspects in the murder remain at large, while the trial of the fifth suspect, identified as Kacong, is underway. (49/edt/sur)