Tue, 21 Jan 2003

W. Sumatra regency on edge following deadly clashes

Kasparman, The Jakarta Post, Padang, West Sumatra

The situation remained tense in Pasaman regency, West Sumatra, on Monday, six days after a clash between two villages there left five people dead and six others seriously injured.

The violence prompted the West Sumatra provincial police to take over security in the regency and deploy additional officers to the area.

West Sumatra Police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Lango Simalango said 400 additional officers had been deployed in Pasaman following last week's violence.

"For the time being, we are taking over security," he said, adding that West Sumatra Police chief Brig. Gen. Adang Firman had been in the regency since last Saturday.

"He (Adang) has issued a shoot-on-sight order against rioters in order to prevent further unrest there," Lango said.

The clash between residents of Air Bangis and Ujung Gading villages last Wednesday night followed a dispute over passengers between drivers of minibuses and motorized pedicabs. Eleven minibuses were destroyed in the ensuing clash.

Then last Friday, two police officers patrolling the area on bikes were injured when an unidentified party threw a homemade bomb at them.

Throughout Sunday and Monday the situation in Pasaman remained tense. Police have intensified their patrols and there are security posts at almost every crossroad in the two villages.

The streets of Air Bangis are deserted, with residents, most of them fishermen, remaining indoors.

Some people have fled Air Bangis, seeking the safety of Panjang island, which is located about seven miles offshore.

In Ujung Gading, locals have constructed barricades to block roads leading to markets and other centers of economic activity.

"We've asked them to stop putting up barricades and are now trying to clear the streets leading to Air Bangis," police spokesman Lango said.

He said the provincial police chief and the Pasaman administration were trying to arrange a meeting between leaders of the two villages in an effort to defuse the tension.

"The police chief has met and held talks with the people in order to find a peaceful solution. Meanwhile, however, we have taken over security in both areas," Lango said.

Also in Pasaman regency last week, the residents of two villages in Talamau district clashed, leaving seven people, including a police officer, injured.

The conflict was triggered by a dispute over a road repair project in Tombang village.

According to the head of the West Sumatra provincial council, Masfar Rasyid, Pasaman regency is prone to conflicts because of the many different ethnic groups living in the area.

"We have asked the regent of Pasaman, Pak Baharuddin, to do a better job anticipating these clashes. They occur quite often in that area," he said.