Poso & Palu News

Feb 28th, 2006, in News, by

Poso political problems.

When the town of Poso in central Sulawesi erupted into inter-communal violence in 1998 the precursor to the fighting, which dragged on for four years intermittently and caused about 2000 deaths, were local government disputes and rivalries, specifically over whether a Christian or a Muslim would be regent of the area, which then broke out into open conflict. Reports over the past week, 1, 2, 3, coming out of Poso suggest that such governmental problems are resurfacing.

Civil servants in the town have gone on strike demanding the resignation of regent Piet Ingkirawang, a member of the PDS, Prosperous Peace Party, a Christian/Protestant party. Government and public welfare offices were seen to be deserted today, the 28th.

The strikers claim that those appointed by the regent are frauds, without proper qualifications, and ominously, that the policies of Ingkirawang are “discriminative”.

Protests by strikers and Muslim residents of the town, which saw 1000 rowdy people in the streets, have also occured and some violence took place. One man, who was thought by the protesters to be a police intelligence agent, was almost beaten to death before his supposed employers, the police, rescued him.

The small town of Poso, a pretty insignificant backwater by most standards, with all its troubles continues to strike fear into the hearts of people all over Indonesia over the future of the country.

9th March 2006. The “Security Operation Command” (Komando Operasi Keamanan), a kind of state of emergency or martial law, in the town of Poso in central Sulawesi has been extended by another three months by the special working committee on Poso in the parliament in Jakarta.

The commander of the operation, police general Paulus Purwoko, said by way of explanation:

Several problems or needs have been identified by the Command, being upholding of the law, economic regeneration by providing a suitably conducive environment, the need for a trauma centre for refugees and victims of the conflict. These things were needed so that refugees would not feel it necessary to take revenge for past injustices and be the trigger for a new round of fighting.
(Beberapa hal yang berhasil diidentifikasi oleh Koopskam antara lain, penegakan hukum, pemberdayaan ekonomi, dengan tersedianya lapangan kerja yang memadai, dan perlunya ‘trauma center’ bagi para korban konflik, agar tidak ada lagi dendam, yang dapat memicu konflik baru di masa datang.)

Other problems that needed addressing included the quality of life of those still in refugee centres.

We haven’t solved the problems of the refugees because the data collection and its processing is not completed. (Kita belum dapat menyelesaikan masalah pengungsi karena pendataannya belum selesai.)

Basically the command seeks to complete a process of reconcialition in the area and solve the worst problems in Poso, he said.

Regarding those who were responsible for stoking the fires of renewed conflict in Poso he said that his command had already identified those radical groups who “played” in Poso, Palu, and other areas of central Sulawesi.

They are groups which have a connection with terrorist groups in Java, Ambon, Bali, and other areas and who are thought to be part of the umbrella organisation of Jamaah Islamiyah.
(Mereka adalah kelompok-kelompok yang memiliki kaitan dengan kelompok teroris di Jawa, Ambon, Bali dan daerah lain di Indonesia, yang diduga sebagai kelompok Jamaah Islamiyah.)

He said that his command would focus on the upholding of the law, justice, security, and would intensify communication efforts with all groups in society including those who are directly connected to the solving of the Poso problem. He admitted that there are those who reject the presence of the command and seek to destabilise the area.

13th March 2006. The police have revealed information about five men who were captured on the 7th March 2006 on suspicion of involement in militant activities in Palu and Poso, central Sulawesi.

The men were captured separately in the district of Parigi-Moutong (Parimo) and in one case a shootout with police occured.

One of them was shot by a policeman.
(Seorang di antara pelaku teror itu sempat terkena peluru yang dimuntahkan petugas.)

said police commander Paulus Purwoko in Palu.

The men have been under questioning for a week and are now firmly believed to have had direct involvement in terrorist activities and will be charged. The police are still withholding their names.

What is certain, after the investigation is finished shortly, is that they are connected with robberies and jihad fund-raising activities in order to carry out violence.
(Yang pasti, sesuai hasil pemeriksaan sementara, mereka terlibat dalam kasus perampokan untuk mengumpulkan fa’i (dana jihad) guna melakukan aksi kekerasan.)

One of the men even helped make a recording of Noordin M. Top wherein he threatened America and its allies.
(Seorang di antaranya bahkan ditengarai ikut membantu membuat rekaman video Noordin M. Top ketika mengancam Amerika Serikat dan sekutunya.)

From Kompas.

April 5th 2006. Tempo reports that 300 security personnel have been withdrawn from the troubled Poso area in central Sulawesi but that about 1650 new recruits are sought for duty in Poso.

Following the so-called improving situation in the Poso Regency, Central Sulawesi, hundreds of security personnel from the police under operational control (BKO) were withdrawn and returned to their units.

Those who were pulled out were comprised of 200 men from the Indonesian Police Headquarters and 100 men of the North Sulawesi Regional Police Mobile Brigade. They have ended their six month tour of duty in an area which has been subject to sectarian violence for almost a decade.

According to the sub-regional police head, High Adjutant Police Commander Rudy Sufahriyadi, the removal of the troops was not only because of the encouraging Poso situation, but also because their tour of duty was over. Moreover, the status of the Poso sub-regional police has changed to Special Sub-regional Police, and thousands of recruits are expected to enlist.

The sub-regional police chief said the Poso special sub-regional police force needs 2,000 recruits who will be prepared to maintain Poso security. From that number, 351 have already arrived in Poso, and the rest will follow in phases.

We will bring them in phases according to the improvement in the situation.

he said.

Until the present at least 3,500 enlisted men of the military and police are stationed in Poso, spread across 108 security posts along the roads in Poso.

From Tempo.

April 11th 2006. A police brigadier is suspected of having committed the attempted murders of two schoolgirls in Poso, central Sulawesi, last year.

The shooting of the two girls, one a Christian and one a Muslim, happened in November 2005. This was not long after three Christian schoolgirls were beheaded, also in Poso, and both events were believed to have been attempts by certain elements in Poso to stir up sectarian fighting again. In neither case were the victims robbed or sexually assaulted.

The two eighteen year old girls, Ivon Natalia and Siti Nuraini, suffered gunshot shrapnel wounds to the face and neck after being shot at as they walked along a street in Poso town. Previously three men had been held over the incident but they were released due to lack of evidence. Now the girls are said to have pointed out the brigadier as the ‘trigger man’.

But General Oegroseno of the police said, in Palu:

At this time the problem is we haven’t found the gun that was used by the brigadier.

30th April 2006. Four former fighters in the sectarian war in Poso, central Sulawesi, say that the conflict is now being prolonged by leaders in the government, police, and military largely for financial gain.

The war in (mainly Muslim) and around (mainly Christian) the town of Poso reached its height in the years of 2000 and 2001 but since the Malino Peace Agreement was brokered it has largely subsided. However isolated instances of violence continue, mysterious attacks on individuals and bombings of market-places.

Two Christians, Agustanti Ekarini Saptati and Alex Patambo, and two Muslims, Andi Basatahir and Syamsul Alam Agus, all former irregular militiamen in Poso say that both sides in the area are long since tired of the conflict and wish to return their lives to normal.

The men claim that agents of the political elites are provoking incidents to keep the animosity between the communities alive.

The group actually consists of people trying to take economic advantage of the conflict.

said Andi.

Conflict causes the government in Jakarta to pour in money and resources, whether for the security forces or for rehabilitation and rebuilding, and this money is then siphoned off by the elites, hence the desire on the part of some to keep things simmering.

Andi went on to say that Jakarta had never decided to send combat battalions to Poso, however, regular soldiers and those from the Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus), were operating there anyway. Many military issue weapons had also found their way into the hands of civilians.

While some, such as the International Crisis Group, have said that many former Mujahadin fighters never left the area and continue to cause problems, Agustanti said most of the jihadists had returned home to Java and Sumatra.

But strangely, more bombs have exploded, people are being mysteriously shot dead and many others living in remote areas have been intimidated.

Meanwhile Alex, an activist from the Central Sulawesi Churches’ Crisis Centre said Poso would have returned to normal if the government had the political will to deal with the instigators of the violence. Syamsul concurred and added that security and order in Poso could be restored only if the police and the military took strict actions against rogue officers and enforced the law.

So far only three minor footsoldiers had been punished:

So far, none of the cases of violence that occurred during and after the conflict, except the one involving (Christian) Fabianus Tibo and his two friends (Marinus Riwu and Dominggus da Silva) who have been sentenced to death, have been investigated as recommended by the 2001 Malino Peace Agreement

Syamsul said.

The situation in Poso had remained tense because the central government was not fully committed to implementing the peace accord, and its officials had become part of the conflict, he said.

The four men added that the bombings, killings, abductions and rapes that had happened during the conflict were yet to be investigated because local government officials and security personnel were involved. Nor had the police ever announced the results of ballistic tests on bullets and guns used in many murder investigations.

May 07th 2006. In what may be the continued fallout from last week’s raid on a terrorist hideout in Java, yesterday five men in the central Sulawesi town of Tolitoli were arrested by the police anti-terror squad, Detachment 88.

The men, Aprianto alias Irwan, Arman alias Haris, Nano, Abdul Muis, and Asrudin, believed to be comrades of Noordin Mohammed Top, were taken in on Saturday afternoon.

Asrudin worked as a seller of vegetables. Anti-terror police posed as buyers at the Pasar Bumi market where he worked. As Asrudin was carrying the food the police had asked for the officers pounced and bundled him into a waiting vehicle. Once Asrudin was in the car police extracted certain information from him which then led them to a rented house nearby.

The police raided this house, arrested Aprianto alias Irwan, Arman alias Haris, Nano, and Abdul Muis, and confiscated some ammunition, books about jihad, and a compact disc of uncertain content.

The first man, Asrudin, is thought to be a native of the area while the local village head claimed to reporters that the other four men were recent arrivals. The headman said they had been in the house five months and worked as food sellers.

There were no signs that they were terrorists, their appearance was just normal and they got along with their neighbours fine.
(Tidak ada tanda-tanda mereka itu anggota teroris, sebab penampilannya biasa-biasa saja serta berhubungan baik dengan tetangga.)

He added that three of the four men spoke Indonesian in a Javanese manner.

Asrudin’s wife, Salma, complained of the arrest of her husband. She said she had known him for years and he had never been involved in criminal activities. However she said that before they had moved to Tolitoli they had spent some time in Poso and Palu.

Local police in Sulawesi have no comment on the arrests saying that it is a national police affair.

8th May 2006. Members of the anti-terror squad, Detachment 88, were set upon by dozens of Muslim residents in Poso, central Sulawesi.

The spontaneous attack occured as the police were arresting one Taufik Bulaga, twenty-five years old, in connection with the arrests of five men a few days ago in nearby Tolitoli on suspicion of involvement in criminal, and possibly terrorist, activities.

Taufik Bulaga, as police attempted to apprehend him, called on the assistance of his neighbours, many of whom rushed out to his aid. The police fired warning shots but this was ineffective and the police were forced to flee the scene without their man. One policeman was slightly injured and later, after they had fled, their motorbikes were burned by the mob.

Taufik Bulaga remains at large. He is wanted specifically in connection with the murder of a soldier’s wife in 2004.

May 10th 2006. The atmosphere in some parts of Poso remains tense with relations between the police and local Muslims still unfriendly.

Indosiar reports that today the chief of the Poso police visited the suburb of Lawanga and was less than well received by residents.

Lawanga was the scene of an earlier scuffle between anti-terror police and residents on Monday, as the police attempted to apprehend a suspect, Taufik Bulaga, in the schoolgirl beheading case of last year.

Taufik Bulaga was later arrested and today residents vented their anger at this on the streets of Lawanga. Police chief Rudi Sufahriyadi and a number of policemen came down to the area and asked the demonstrators to disperse. The discussions between residents and the police chief were said to have been frosty. The protestors were reported to have become angry when asked/ordered to disperse and a police vehicle was pelted with rocks.

May 12th 2006. Antara says that Hasanuddin, one of the suspects in the schoolgirl beheading case, apologised to the families of his victims.

Saya mohon maaf kepada keluarga korban.

Another terror suspect, Haris, admitted he had taken part in the attack on the schoolgirls, and had murdered lawyer Ferry Silalahi, and had been involved in an attack on the Immanuel church in Poso.

Another man, Irwanto, also apologised for his role in the beheading and admitted he had helped carry out a bombing in the Christian town of Tentena and had also taken part in the attack on the Immanuel church.

The three men said these things in a police video that was played at a press conference. They were not accompanied by their lawyers in the video, some portions of the recording were cut out, and therefore some journalists were heard to voice their disbelief in the confessions and apologies.

Police general Anton Bachrul Alam however said it was all genuine.

They asked for the video to be made. They have admitted their guilt and want this to be known by society.
(Rekaman itu permintaan mereka. Mereka telah mengakui perbuatannya salah dan minta disebarluaskan ke masyarakat.)

13th May. Gatra says Poso police captured four more men involved in the beheadings. But the chairman of the Forum Silaturrahmi Umat Islam (FKSUI) Poso, Adnan Arsal, said that the four men had a strong alibi and were not involved.

22nd May. Agape Press voices the concerns of human rights groups that the arrests of so many Muslims in connection to the beheadings could be a merely political move by the authorities intended to distract attention from the impending executions of Fabianus Tibo, Dominggus da Silva, & Marinus Riwu, all Christians convicted of attacks on Muslims.

Ann Buwalda, director of the Jubilee Campaign, says of the Christian men:

These men were involved in defending their homes and their churches from Laskar Jihad militants who were rampaging and burning them down.

However until now the three men have not had their sentences carried out.

23rd May. Of the Tibo, et al case, Central Sulawesi police chief Oegroseno said that his men were concentrating on getting to the bottom of the events that transpired at Kilometer 9, in Tagolu village, Poso. Oegroseno denied that he had threatened to resign from the police if the executions of the three men were not postponed until he had had time to solve the question of who was at the centre of the violence in Poso in 2001. Meanwhile Yahya Sibe, head of the high court in central Sulawesi, said that the executions would go ahead but the matter had to proceeded with with much caution.

25th May. Ivone Natalia Moganthi, 18, and Siti Nuraini, 18, who were shot at on 8th November 2005 while on the street, said that a policeman was involved in the attack on them.

Ivone said that the policeman worked at the main Poso station and had the initial “Ro”. She said shortly after she and her friend were shot at she saw the man nearby and heard him say on a mobile phone:

Where are you, where are you? Don’t go left, a lot of people. Don’t go into anyone’s house.
(sampean di mana, sampean di mana. Jangan lari ke kiri, banyak orang, Jangan sampai masuk rumah orang.)

Another policeman, a brigadier, is currently being held on suspicion of being the trigger man in the attack.

8th June. Human rights activists called on the government to publicly account for its six-month security operation in conflict-scarred Central Sulawesi, which will end this month.

Usman Hamid, the coordinator of the National Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), argued the evaluation was necessary because tension had remained high since the government deployed a task force there in January.

We recorded at least 21 cases of violence, which have taken place since January.

Shootings occurred in front of a jewelry store in south Palu on January 10th, and at Poso’s Pulau Kalimantan traffic circle on January 25th and in Bugis Village, Parigi, on February 28th. Three people were killed in the attacks.

Despite the presence of extra security forces, none of the gunmen have been identified or apprehended.

Bomb attacks, arsons, riots and attacks causing destruction of property, have continued there, with security personnel failing to take measures against the perpetrators. Security personnel have also been involved in internal conflicts.

he said, citing a recent brawl between police and soldiers which took place in front of a Poso police precinct.

Even more confusing, local security authorities are planning to grant a general amnesty to locals. It seems that the government is trying to put the blame on Muslims and Christians but refuse to explore the possibility of the involvement of certain parties in Jakarta.

More than 1,000 people died in sectarian violence in Poso at the height of the Christian-Muslim conflict there between 2000 and 2001. An extra 4,000 police and soldiers were sent to restore order in Central Sulawesi in 2005 after a series of shootings and bombings in the region.

July 09th 2006. The governor of central Sulawesi says the town of Poso is now safe, among other news from the area.

Governor Bandjela Paliudju said that the province, scene of a brutal jihadist war only a few years ago, was now safe, no different from other areas of the country. In spite of a recent church bombing he averred:

Who says Poso isn’t safe? It’s very safe, I’ve been there, there are no problems.
(Siapa bilang Poso tidak aman. Aman, sangat aman. Saya sudah berkunjung ke sana, tidak ada masalah.)

Meanwhile a reminder of the conflict that blazed in the town in 2001-2002, the trial of Andi Ipong and Muhammad Yusuf Asata, accused of murdering a Balinese man in Poso in May 2001, I Wayan Sumariase, was concluded with the two men each being sentenced to nine years. The judge said:

From witness testimony it is proven that the accused deliberately took the life of another person, but, they had not planned to do so.
(Dari keterangan saksi-saksi, terdakwa terbukti dengan sengaja menghilangkan nyawa orang lain, tetapi terdakwa tidak terlihat merencanakannya terlebih dahulu.)

In reality, it came out in court, the men had murdered I Wayan Sumariase in the belief that he was a Christian where in fact he was a Hindu. Later, after the murder, a certain Muslim cleric, one Toha, was heard by a witness to harangue the two men for killing a person of the wrong faith.

A witness to the murder said that Andi Ipong had stabbed the Balinese man in the liver while Muhammad Yusuf Asata held him around the neck from behind, while in a public transportation vehicle, a bemo.

The judge said that the two men had behaved poorly in court, walked out of the court every time proceedings were begun returning only for the close of the day’s activity, and generally treated the proceedings with disdain, and had shown no remorse for their actions. However in giving the rather light sentences of nine years, in disregard of the prosecution’s demand for 20-year terms, the judge said the men were still young and had hopes of rehabilitation.

It appears the two men plan to appeal against the conviction, with their supporters claiming that they were not even at the scene of the crime.

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