President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has promised a series of measures to prevent increasing incidents of communal and sectarian violence across the country.
“Communal and sectarian conflicts are happening often. This cannot be ignored. There must be something wrong when people find it hard to find security and tranquility,” he told cabinet members yesterday.
Direct instructions are to be issued to provincial governors, district heads, mayors and security officials tomorrow, to deal with conflicts more effectively.
“My instructions will be related to efforts taken to prevent and deal with communal and sectarian conflicts. If these conflicts still occur despite preventative efforts having been taken, quick and right remedies must be found to restore peace and prevent them from growing,” he said.
According to the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence, at least 32 incidents of sectarian violence have occurred so far this year. These conflicts left at least 28 people dead and more than 200 others seriously injured.
“This [data] doesn’t include material losses like destroyed property and non-material losses like psychological fallout among the victims,” Haris Azhar, the commission’s coordinator, told ucanews.com.
He said conflicts often break out over relatively minor issues, citing a violent dispute that broke out at the weekend in the West Kutai district in East Kalimantan.
Police say the conflict began with an altercation between a customer and a gas station attendant. The customer became angry when told there was no fuel left. An argument ensued in which the attendant allegedly hit the customer, who fled and returned later with other villagers and destroyed the gas station.
The violence spread and since early Sunday, around 400 market stalls have also been destroyed.
Similar conflicts have also occurred in Central Sulawesi, Lampung, Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam and Papua, Azhar said. Central Sulawesi has recently seen 15 incidents of mob violence which killed four people and injured 27 others, he added.
Miscommunication, dissatisfaction with law enforcement, provocative messages and grudges were underlying reasons why these acts of violence take place, he continued.
Thamrin Amal Tomagola, a sociologist at the University of Indonesia, said the government needs to focus more on prevention rather than knee-jerk reactions by providing a massive security presence to stop the conflicts.
“The government should deal with conflicts comprehensively by involving all social elements as well as the police and local governments,” he said.
“The government is there only when there are victims,” he added.