Skip to comments.Ambon violence sends Christians fleeing for lives
Posted on 04/26/2004 7:54:16 PM PDT by Destro
Ambon violence sends Christians fleeing for lives
By Matthew Moore, Herald Correspondent in Jakarta
April 27, 2004
More than 200 Indonesian paramilitary police and two extra army battalions went to Maluku province in the country's east to stop rioting and attacks in which about 20 people have died and more than 100 injured, many with machetes.
As the worst outbreak of religious violence in for more than two years continued into yesterday, parts of the Christian University of Maluku in Ambon, the regional capital, were burnt, as were about 200 houses as residents packed quickly and fled.
The wounded were taken to at least four hospitals where staff reported a range of injuries. The director of Haulussy Hospital, Dr Yopi Manuputty, said he had received 13 patients since Sunday, and two had died. Most had suffered serious machete wounds while several had been shot.
As gunfire continued yesterday, the national Interior Minister, Hari Sabarno, said the death toll had reached 18 with 107 injured. But other sources said the toll was over 20 dead. The government news agency, Antara, said more than 130 people had been injured.
The violence is the worst since Muslims and Christians signed the Malino peace accords in 2002, ending three years of fighting killing about 5000 people in several provinces.
The latest fighting began when mainly Christian supporters of a separatist group called Republic of South Maluku (RMS) marched through the streets of Ambon, which 2300 kilometres east of Jakarta, on Sunday to commemorate the 54th anniversary of the declaration of a regional republic.
Police accompanied the small group - some of whose members were reportedly carrying the banned flag of the RMS. Jakarta Post reporters from Ambon said the marchers jeered some Muslims in one area and Christian and Muslim supporters armed with bombs, homemade rifles and machetes later formed opposing lines along four streets.
In the fighting that followed, United Nations Development Program buildings were attacked and burnt along with a number of cars. No staff were injured.
Yusuf Kalla, a leading candidate to become Indonesia's next vice-president and the architect of the Maluku peace agreements, called on security forces to take "firm action" to quickly end the violence.
"The Government should have banned it [Sunday's march]," he said. "It's a different conflict compared with last time. It was a religious conflict in the past but this is the RMS separatist group."
An expert on the Maluku at the University of Indonesia, Thamrin Amal Tomagola, told Reuters that some Muslims saw the United Nations as partial to Christians, which might explain why their building was attacked.
"[But] the real trigger was the complacency of the Maluku police. They should have anticipated that every April 25, RMS supporters celebrate the group's anniversary," he said.
With Karuni Rompies
Matthew 27:46 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Psalm 13:1-3 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? 3 Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death.
The religion of pieces at work again.