Wed, 24 Mar 1999

Refugees flood Pontianak

PONTIANAK, West Kalimantan (JP): Over 10,000 Madurese from Sambas regency have poured into this city and surrounding areas to escape the violence with local Malays and Dayaks.

The exodus continued on Tuesday, while over 13,000 people in the Pemangkat coastal sub-district of Sambas were waiting to be evacuated.

Many of the refugees entering the provincial capital were accommodated in the Pangsuma sports stadium (around 5,000 refugees) and a haj dormitory (around 3,200 refugees). Hundreds more were sheltering in nearby military barracks.

Over 1,400 others were staying in the Wajo area in Siantan subdistrict, some 20 kilometers north of here.

Antara reported that about 1,500 more were stranded in a military air base in the inland sub-district of Sanggau Ledo.

Six Hercules military aircraft took off from the Halim Perdanakusuma air base in Jakarta, carrying a 745 security reinforcement troops, on the orders of Armed Forces Chief of General Affairs Lt. Gen. Sugiono.

There are over 2,000 police and military personnel already posted in the regency of 800,000 people.

"Your first task is to stop the riots, then to crack down on those who break the law," Sugiono told members from the police's Mobile Brigade unit, the Army's Strategic Reserves Command, the Marines and the Air Force's Special Force.

Expecting health hazards to occur following the massive flow of refugees in West Kalimantan, Minister of Health Faried A. Moeloek said on Tuesday he had sent medical supplies and workers to the province.

No fatal clashes were reported on Tuesday.

But AP reported from Simpang Monterado village in Sanggau Ledo on Tuesday that warning shots were fired to stop hundreds of armed Dayaks from attacking Madurese.

The angry Dayaks, carrying spears, swords and homemade guns, demanded that the security authorities hand over the terrified Madurese.

Soldiers with automatic rifles fired volleys of gunshots to disperse the mob, and drove off in a convoy of trucks with a dozen Madurese sheltering beneath a tarpaulin.

There were no reports of injuries. Some Dayak fighters were stopped, but released after being disarmed.

No update on fatalities was available from Pontianak authorities, but an official at the Sambas administration in Singkawang said more bodies had been found, bringing the estimated death toll to 180.

"Not all of these are Madurese. Some are Malays," office spokesman I. Libertus Ahie, who is also a respected Dayak leader in the regency, said.

He took the chance to clarify media reports that recent West Kalimantan's carnage was due to a conflict between Madurese and Dayaks.

"This is purely Madurese versus Malays. Dayaks are involved only as individuals, not as a whole ... they are the Dayaks who are married to Malays and joined the battles simply out of solidarity with their Malay relatives," Libertus said.

In West Kalimantan, Madurese make up 2 percent of the total population of four million. Before the massive evacuation, they comprised eight percent of the Sambas population of 800,000.

Libertus also warned security personnel against repressing villagers, saying negotiations with Malay and Dayak elders were beginning to bear fruit.

He suggested all Madurese leave the regency "until we restore order here". Otherwise, he said, the carnage would continue.

Libertus lashed out at Jakarta politicians, mentioning Abdurrahman Wahid, who said former president Soeharto's followers were behind the unrest, and observers who said social jealousy provoked the Malays to attack Madurese.

"No, it was simply because of their long-resented behavior," he said.

They failed to adapt to the local culture, Libertus said.

Meanwhile, from the East Java capital of Surabaya on Tuesday, two respected Madurese figures -- Naruddin A. Rahman and Fuad Amin Imron -- urged President B.J. Habibie and ABRI Commander Gen. Wiranto to protect the Madurese.

"The government and ABRI must investigate the case thoroughly. I call on all Madurese in East Java not to be agitated (to retaliate)," Imron said. (nur/35/aan)