01/16/2006, 00.00
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Refugees and hospital staff in Maluku are the latest victims of corruption

Despite large-scale financial aid, people displaced by inter-religious strife return to their villages to find none of the promised housing. At the same time, a local government hospital is not paying its staff because it does not "have enough money".

Ambon (AsiaNews) – Maluku refugees returning to their home villages are finding that the housing pledged by the government has not yet been built. To compound matter, local doctors are on strike. Both problems are symptomatic of a wider problem, that of graft and corruption. In fact according to the Transparency International 2005 report, Indonesia is among the top 20 most corrupt countries in the world.

In its latest report on the situation in the regencies (provinces) of Maluku and North Maluku, the Amboina Diocese Crisis Centre reiterated these charges saying that "recent cases of corruption are examples of a widespread phenomenon whose consequences are often hard to fully measure since it is so pervasive and common."

One first example is that of more than a thousand people who were internally-displaced as a result of sectarian strife between Christians and Muslims. They have made it back to Lamaha and Haturapa, their home villages on West Ceram Island, only to find that there are no homes for them. They say local authorities had promised new housing but now refuse on the grounds that the responsibility belongs to the province.

Currently, returnees have had to shelter in the former marketplace in poor hygienic conditions and lack enough food. Most of them had fled as a result of the inter-religious clashes that affected the area between 1999 and 2001. Some 5,000 people died in that period and another five million were forced to leave their homes. Since then billions of rupiahs have poured into the region but have not benefited them. Even those who did get some money did not get as much as promised. Even funds earmarked for local health facilities have turned up missing.

Staff at the Chasasn Bosoiri Hospital in Ternate (North Maluku) has gone on strike to demand the back payment of wages for the last four months. But each time employees have asked for their money, management laconically replied: "We don't have enough money to pay wages . . ."

For the Amboina Diocese Crisis Centre, such examples are but the tip of an iceberg, adding that even "the mass media are hard pressed to report all the cases of graft and corruption since they are so widespread".

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