Sat, 04 Nov 2000

Relocation of Berlan residents may prevent further clashes

JAKARTA (JP): Sociologists suggested on Thursday the relocation of residents of the Berlan military housing complex as the most effective way of preventing further violent clashes with residents of neighboring Palmeriam in Central Jakarta.

The head of the Criminology Institute at the University of Indonesia, Muhammad Mustofa, said during a discussion on Thursday the government should relocate the Berlan residents in light of the long-running and complicated hostilities with Palmeriam residents. The residents of Berlan are active or retired military personnel, whose children and grandchildren are involved in the clashes.

"It's almost impossible to negate a potential outbreak (of violence) among residents of the two areas due to the series of clashes which have occurred in the past," he said during a discussion on the Prevention and Resolution of Collective Conflict, organized by the Institute for Policy and Community Development Studies, in cooperation with the German-based Friedrich Ebert Stiftung foundation.

"Every military housing complex is exclusive so it can be a source of hostility," he said.

Mustofa said communal brawls such as those in Matraman and other areas in Jakarta were also caused by the high number of unemployed.

"Unemployment makes it easy to mobilize people into acts of mass violence," he said.

The conflict between residents in the Matraman district has dragged on for several years, despite attempts by local leaders and the city administration to settle the dispute.

The longevity of the hostilities has also obscured the initial causes of the bitter conflict.

Even local residents have expressed pessimism that outside intervention can bring peace to the community.

The former chief of the Palmeriam subdistrict, Salim Abu Bakar, said on Thursday he was doubtful about official attempts to bring peace.

He also regretted the absence of a willingness among elders in the area to take concrete action to prevent the brawls.

"I think only half of them are truly willing to throw themselves into the battlefield to stop the violence. The rest seem to prefer to either get involved in the brawls or to just stay silent," Salim, who headed the subdistrict for 18 months ending in June, told The Jakarta Post.

He remarked that despite convening dozens of peace meetings, some 20 clashes erupted during his tenure.

In a rather novel idea, Salim suggested that mothers in the area get directly involved in curbing the brawls. (44)