Monday, October 4, 2010

Indonesia’s rising tide of violence

Mob violence seems to have increased in intensity, in frequency and in numbers of areas across Indonesia, apparently a reflection of the increasing loss of respect for the National Police, long-perceived as one of the most corrupt public institutions in the country. An increasing number of people have tended to get angry quickly, and become irritated easily.

The government had to send in two battalions, one each from the police Mobile Brigade and military (TNI) on Wednesday morning to help end violent ethnic clashes in Tarakan, East Kalimantan, which broke out Sunday and had killed five people and injured six.

The clashes, which pitted members of the indigenous Dayak Tidung tribe and youths from the Bugis, an ethnic group from South Sulawesi, broke out over a trivial issue — an act of bullying, National Police chief Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri said. The situation in Tarakan, however, was tense.

East Kalimantan Governor Awang Faroek Ishak, who rushed to Tarakan from the provincial capital, Balikpapan (two hours’ plane ride away) said after meetings with local community leaders that the clashes were not related to interethnic rivalries, but were triggered purely by criminal motives.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered officials to quickly resolve the clashes to prevent them from spreading further into other areas in East Kalimantan, like the “ethnic war” between the Dayak natives and ethnic Madurese (an ethnic group from Madura Island) in Central Kalimantan in 2001.

The President referred to violence in Sampit between the Madurese and Dayaks, which killed hundreds and displaced tens of thousands of Madurese.

The government mediated a peace agreement between the leaders of the two ethnic groups on Wednesday evening, and both camps vowed to end the violence, stressing that it was not ethnically based.

Conditions were almost back to normal on Thursday, when banks, markets and shops reopened and residents resumed their daily routines. Most shopping centers in Tarakan had reopened and tens of thousands of people who took shelter at military and police premises between Sunday and Wednesday morning headed home.

Another bout of violence erupted near South Jakarta District Court on Wednesday, leaving three people dead and a dozen injured, despite the presence of more than 280 police personnel.

The fight between ethnic gangs from Flores, East Nusa Tenggara and Ambon, Maluku, broke out as two people from the Flores group were about to stand trial for their role in a brawl in April at Blowfish nightclub in South Jakarta in which two people had been killed.

The April incident pitted the Flores group against a rival gang from Ambon, both of which were vying for control of security and protection rackets in South Jakarta.
The presence of hundreds of police personnel in the area — to provide security for the high-profile trial of former National Police chief detective Comr. Gen. Susno Duadji in another room at the court — apparently was not enough to deter the gang war.

Also in April, a land dispute between Jakarta municipal administration and residents near a historic shrine in Koja, North Jakarta, ended in bloody clash that saw three public order officials killed and hundreds of residents injured.

Thousands of miles away, in West Lombok, a 100-strong mob attacked a police office after two of their relatives were detained by the local police as suspects in an arson case. No casualties were reported, but the police was damaged.

Many have been worried about the recent increase in mob violence, wondering how mobsters and street thugs got away with shooting, mutilating and killing in front of such large numbers of police personnel.

Such brazen acts of violence reflect a total disregard of the National Police and distrust in the judicial system.

Some sociologists say the mob violence is a result of increasingly widespread sense of frustration from poverty, unemployment and injustice amid the high incidence of corruption among high officials and police officers.

Adm. Agus Suhartono , the newly installed commander of the Indonesian Military (TNI), pledged on Tuesday to accelerate the TNI reforms, including the complete transfer of military businesses to state companies, and to help the National Police fight terrorism.

Agus, who was installed by President Yudhoyono to replace Gen. Djoko Santoso, is the second admiral appointed as the TNI chief after Widodo Adi Sucipto, who served from 1999 to 2002.

The latest data available shows that TNI businesses were run by 23 foundations, more than 1,000 cooperatives and 55 joint ventures.

Also inaugurated together with Adm. Agus at the same ceremony was Vice Adm. Soeparno as the new chief of the Navy.

The 2004 TNI Law has imposed a five-year deadline for the government to take over all businesses owned and run directly or indirectly by the military, but the President decided in 2009 to extend this deadline for an unspecified period.

Police-military cooperation seems more urgent and imperative now following the brazen armed attack on Hamparan Perak Police Office in Deli Serdang, North Sumatra, by unidentified gunmen believed to be part of a local terrorist network.
— Vincent Lingga for The Jakarta Post

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