Mon, 14 Aug 2000

Sulawesi governors sign Poso peace deal

TENTENA, Central Sulawesi (JP): Sulawesi governors signed a peace accord for Poso here on Sunday with recommendations for security guarantees for refugees, psychological and infrastructural rehabilitation and fair law enforcement.

South Sulawesi governor HZB Palaguna, the initiator of the meeting, said that President Abdurrahman Wahid could use this 'Sulawesi solidarity' agreement as an example for reconciliation and peace efforts in other 'hot spots' around the country.

Palaguna did not reveal the detailed mechanisms for the implementation of the recommendations.

Three governors were in attendance at the meeting-- North Sulawesi Governor A.J. Sondakh, HZM Palaguna and Central Sulawesi Governor GB. Paliudju. Southeast Sulawesi Governor Laode Kaimuddin, who was due to attend, failed to appear. It is unclear whether he was represented by his deputy.

Religious and youth leaders as well as local figures from the four provinces were also invited to the meeting, which was held at the Pambug Indah Hotel, Tentena, some 55 kilometers south of Poso.

The meeting was the third after a first meeting in Makassar and a second in Manado, North Sulawesi in May.

The three governors voiced their optimism that the deal would progressively extinguish the sectarian conflict in Poso.

A.J. Sondakh expressed his optimism that the deal would accelerate the reconciliation process and the improvement of security in clash-torn Poso, "... so that all the refugees could return home soon."

According to Palaguna, the meeting is a strong indication that all Sulawesi people were determined to help curb the clashes.

The governors had earlier pledged to help Central Sulawesi restore its economy by, among other things, providing special aid.

Meanwhile, Paliudju said that the security guarantees mentioned in the deal would make possible the recovery of the local economy. "We will seriously put into effect what we have just signed."

The first fracas broke out in Poso last year. The latest disturbances erupted on May 23 this year, with at least 300 people killed and 4,000 buildings destroyed.

There are now around 60,000 Poso refugees living in various camps located in separate parts of Sulawesi.


For most of the refugees, the agreement was merely a political move among the members of the 'elite'.

Rev. Rinaldy Damanik of the Sulawesi Christian Church Crisis Control Center said that the meeting would not be able to settle the crisis "as long as it (the meeting) does not involve the actors who participated in the fray. We were involved in the fighting, but we are now just spectators at the meeting."

He added that the security of the refugees had yet to be guaranteed by the inhabitants should they return home. "Please don't force them (the refugees) to return to their homeland for the time being."

Hundreds of refugees had earlier expressed their skepticism.

Refugees living in several camps in the regency of Luwu Utara, South Sulawesi province said that the deal reached during the meeting could not put an end to their anger following the killing of their relatives during the disturbances.

"We are not sure that the meeting can guarantee security and assuage our trauma and desire for revenge," Sri Hartati, 27, told The Jakarta Post in Mangkutana on Friday. She and her family are now living in a camp in Wonorejo, Massamba district, South Sulawesi.

"How can I return to Poso if all that I had there has been destroyed by our (former) neighbors," Sri Hartati said.

Another refugee, Abdurrahman, 17, said it was understandable that the refugees were doubtful about post-riot security conditions.

Imam Muhajir, a Massamba district resident whose house has been used to house the refugees, said; "If the meeting is unfruitful, another sectarian clash will erupt soon." (27/sur)