Rising tension in Moluccas and Sulawesi

Fifteen big checkpoints have been set up in Palu. Meanwhile, in Ambon, violence has followed tension between police and army troops.


Palu (AsiaNews) – The bomb which went off this morning outside a Hindu temple in Poso, central Sulawesi, is only the latest in a string of incidents in the Indonesian provinces of the Moluccas and Central Sulawesi. Every time there is another attack, the population is reminded of the two bloody inter-religious conflicts that shook the area between 1999 and 2001.

Central Sulawesi

Violence seems destined to go on forever here. The police have now decided to set up 15 big checkpoints around the capital Palu. The commander of the provincial security forces, Inspector General Paul Purwoko, said the initiative was aimed at preventing "all possible attacks". Palu has thus been divided into 15 sectors, where the military and police "are on a state of highest alert to anticipate any situation". No explanation has been given, however, about what "these specific situations" could be.

Local sources said security operations have been stepped in recent days: special police troops armed with semi-automatic guns have been placed in strategic places around the town. "They are there from dawn until desk," said one resident "The situation is like a state of civil emergency."

Even Poso is under tight security after the arrest of two local residents who are suspected terrorists: Walid and Khalid. From 2000 to 2001, the inter-religious conflict in Poso led to around 1000 deaths. In 2001, Muslim and Christian leaders signed a peace deal. The level of violence dropped but murders – largely unpunished – have continued.

Moluccas

There was more violence in the provincial capital, Ambon, last weekend. A soldier was killed on 4 March and a student was seriously injured after police fired on a crowd of people. Both incidents followed tensions between the police and the army. The head of the police of the Moluccas said everything started when a policeman killed a soldier on 2 March, outside the general headquarters of the police in Tantui, Ambon.

After these incidents, local residents say they are afraid to go out at night and during the day, they see men from both corps circulating the city in groups and carrying weapons.

"The military and police should protect people and not create problems," said the relative of the injured boy. Another resident added: "These tensions risk destroying the peace only recently re-established."

The conflict between Christians and Muslims in the Moluccas (1999 – 2001) led to the death of 5,000 people and the displacement of 500,000.

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