Thu, 27 Apr 2000

Violence flares in Ambon after Megawati departure

AMBON, Maluku (JP): Two men were killed here on Wednesday only hours after Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri left the provincial capital on a two-day visit aimed at effecting peace in the prolonged sectarian conflict.

The men were killed in Waihaong district.

Berti Diaz, 22, from Batu Meja and Rido Nikijuluw died from stab wounds to the right sides of their abdomens.

A junior high school student, Nikson Bahong, was among those injured in the fray. He is being treated at Dr. Haulussy General Hospital. A woman, Marlene Lesilolo, a man identified as Elvin Diaz and another unidentified man also were hurt.

Ironically the violence erupted as youths from several warring neighborhoods in Ambon -- Kuda Mati, Batu Merah, Galunggung and Waihalong -- met to try to resolve their differences.

As a show of solidarity for the meeting, a parade of pedicabs and youths was held. However, a mob suddenly attacked the parade.

The situation remained tense until late on Wednesday as troops tried to disperse the mob and save people trapped in the melee.


The Vice President and her entourage of 10 Cabinet ministers and military commanders earlier held a gathering with local religious and community leaders at Nusantara field in Masohi, Seram island.

She then flew to Morotai Air Base to visit refugees before traveling to riot-torn Galela and Tobelo districts in North Maluku.

She left for Jakarta from Morotai Air Base on Wednesday evening.

In her message to the people of Masohi, which was the site of violence last week, Megawati stressed the importance of self- restraint and awareness in maintaining harmony.

"The Masohi incident which happened only a days before my visit was created by certain parties who do not wish to see peace here. So please, stay united," Megawati said.

"It's useless for the government to strive to achieve peace if the people do not wish to do so."

Megawati said her stay overnight aboard KRI Arun battleship was merely for practical reasons.

"It's not because I'm afraid of the condition here. I have to visit so many places in two days so it was easier for me to move (by staying onboard)," she explained. (48/49/edt)