Bishop Mandagi makes veiled accusations against Wiranto concerning violence in Moluccas

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Behind all the episodes of religious clashes on the Moluccas Islands, there is the sly craftwork of "certain presidential candidates" helping to step up violence to promote "their own political interests", said Msgr. Peter Canisius Mandagi, bishop of Amboina, when speaking to journalists about prolonged conflict in the capital of the Central Moluccas Islands.    

Speaking in Batu Meja, in the center of Ambon, the bishop said: "Such politicians are interested in gaining popularity among the people of Ambon and use conflict as part of their strategy."

Creating this situation, the prelate added, people then are forced to choose a presidential candidate with a stable past and long military experience, capable of guaranteeing security amongst the population.

The bishop said that "conflict (in the Moluccas) risks influencing the collective interests prior to the July 5 presidential elections…Therefore they use violence as means of heightening people's emotions."   

Some observers say Bishop Mandagi was referring to former army general Wiranto, a presidential candidate running under the Golkar party ticket.  

Many analysts believe that Wiranto is linked to the Islamic Defenders Group, an organization that attacked students during pro-democracy demonstrations in 1998. He is also blamed for conflict that erupted upon the referendum launched for East Timor's independence and fostering religious conflict in Jakarta in 1998 and the Moluccas in 1999.  

After the fall of the Suharto regime, the country's birth of democracy led to a decline in the army's influence in the national government and economy.

Army spokesman, Major General Sjafrie Samsoedin, refused to comment on Mandagi's words while speaking at a special press conference held in Jakarta. Yet while referring to Wiranto (without mentioning his name), he said: "We can do nothing about the interference of certain presidential candidates in outbreaks of fighting in Ambon, since –despite being (military) generals in the past – they are no longer in charge of the army."  

Samsoedin added that the TNI (Indonesia's national armed guard) does not want to interfere anymore in politics. "The TNI is merely the country's means to maintain security and we don't want to get involved in political agendas. If we do, we risk casting a poor light on the TNI."

Wiranto, however, issued his own comment: "Firing accusations at presidential candidates, especially when Ambon is in such difficulty, is very, very dangerous." Wiranto said these words while at a Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) meeting. NU is the most widespread Islamic organization, whose leader KH Hasym Muzadi, the Golkar Party wants to nominate as Wiranto's vice-presidential running mate.

According Wiranto, regarding what has been said about the involvement of presidential candidates in Moluccas violence, "this is all a big lie". "I hope that nothing more will be said," he concluded.