Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Indonsia’s Poso - the hot spot

Poso, a Central Sulawesi town that is the crossroads to cities throughout the island of Sulawesi, has made media headlines lately – but unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. A church was set ablaze while a sophisticated explosive device struck a traffic police post in the regency early on Monday, immediately igniting fears of a reoccurrence of the sectarian conflict there over a decade ago.

No fatalities were reported in the two incidents. But the perpetrators have apparently succeeded in spreading tension in the regency as the police found later in the day an assembled bomb near the town’s Tentena market, the characteristics of which were similar to the bomb that went off at the police post.

The provincial police suspect that a certain terrorist group was behind the explosion at the police post in the regency’s Sintuvu subdistrict, which injured a police officer and a bank security guard who happened to be passing the post. The perpetrators were believed to be behind last week’s slaying of two policemen after they had been
declared missing eight days previously.

Poso saw bloody clashes between Christian and Muslim communities between 1997 and 2001 that claimed around 1,000 lives and displaced 25,000 people. However, after a government-brokered a peace pact in 2001, local extremists, many of them linked to and directed by terrorist group Jamaah Islamiyah (JI), mounted attacks on Christians and local officials, obviously in the hope of reviving the conflict.

There has been escalating violence in the regency since August, with at least four shooting incidents by unknown gunmen recorded, leaving two police officers dead. Those incidents have created speculation among the general public and security analysts that they were not “stand-alone” cases.

The most serious speculation was voiced by Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) lawmaker Trimedya Panjaitan, who said the incidents were part of a grand design to “weaken” the police’s capacity to tackle domestic security threats and acts of terrorism while observing the fact that the police force was the sole institution in charge of domestic security affairs. “Those [incidents] should not be an entry point for the smooth deliberation of the bill on national security [RUU Kamnas],” he said, referring to the controversial draft law.

Whatever the motive of the perpetrators, the police must take immediate and firm action against such acts of terror. Security threats in Poso are not new cases. We had serious problems there in 2001 and managed to bring back peace. Why can’t we now? Jakarta Post editorial

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