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  Indonesia: The Search for Peace in Maluku

JAKARTA/BRUSSELS, 8 February 2002: The International Crisis Group today publishes a new report that examines the violent clashes in the Indonesian province of Maluku, and makes recommendations to the government of Indonesia on ways to improve security and build confidence between Muslim and Christian communities. The report, "Indonesia: The Search for Peace in Maluku", has been released as representatives of the Christian and Muslim communities prepare to meet in Malino, South Sulawesi, on 11 and 12 February.

ICG’s Indonesia Project Director Harold Crouch said: “No one expects an early solution to the problems in Maluku, but the national government’s initiative to invite 35 members of each group to Malino is a welcome first step.”

"Indonesia: The Search for Peace in Maluku" examines the circumstances that led to the introduction of a civil emergency in June 2000, and the steps taken toward reducing violence since then. The paper provides a detailed assessment of the behaviour of the security forces and the handling of the Islamist militia group Laskar Jihad.

At least 5,000 people have been killed and almost one-third of the population displaced since fighting between Christians and Muslims broke out in Maluku’s capital Ambon in January 1999. Each side has suffered enormous losses and is convinced that the other is to blame for starting the violence. There have been some refugee returns in North Maluku, but the capital and other regions remain divided. The security forces themselves are accused of “contamination” - partisan alignment with their own religious community - and there is little confidence among the local population that government troops will protect them from further attack. This perception is particularly strong among Muslims, which has made it politically difficult for government officials to act against Laskar Jihad.

There has been a reduction in violence in the past year, enabling some return to normalcy. “Neutral zones” have been established for trading and further exchanges are planned. But sporadic attacks and bombings still occur. These are not necessarily linked to religious groups. There are indications that the security forces themselves have an interest in maintaining an atmosphere in which business people and property owners feel vulnerable and are willing to pay for protection.

The Indonesian government’s stated priority is to ensure that large scale fighting does not resume. ICG urges the authorities to take strong action against those responsible for shootings and bombings designed to maintain tension and personnel who commit or condone human rights abuses.


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