Ambon Information Website
Crisis Center PGI
Sunday, 25 April 2004 a clash occurred between residents which also involved the security force in Ambon, Maluku. The conflict escalated quickly, number of victims rises, houses and office buildings were burnt down. The following is some information which was gathered:
1) Prior to April 2004, rumors and information (both from community and media) has escalated, which showed that the government and the security force are well aware of the RMS flag hoisting plan and the celebration of RMS? (Republik Maluku Selatan) birthday by FKM (Front Kedaulatan Maluku); some facts that supported the prior statement are:
a) On April 12, 2004, a coordination meeting was done between the local police force (POLDA), TNI and local government, to anticipate the RMS flag hoisting and RMS? birthday celebration by FKM. Based on the meeting the Head of Local Police Force stated, ?as long as it does not resulted in an anarchist situation, and they don?t hoist RMS flag, go ahead??.
b) The Maluku local police force through its Public Relations division, has planned on asking the help of GPM Synod to advise Christians not to hoist the benang raja flag (RMS Flag) and to help capture the flag hoisters if possible. In a closed conversation between the POLDA Public Relations party and Church groups, the POLDA party have strongly stated that there is a concern of ?strong force? which will try to justify their assistance by provoking mass to hoist the RMS flag. According to the explanation of involved partrty, ?similar pattern has been used in other areas in Indonesia?.
c) A rumor has developed in the Muslim communities that those supporting FKM/RMS will be entering the Muslims residential areas and carrying RMS flags.
2) On 25 April 2004, approximately 2 AM, suddenly electricity was down for roughly 5 minutes in Kudamati area and its surrounding. The area was concentrated by the supporters of FKM/RMS. Once the electricity was recovered, a number of RMS flags stood on the streets and trees of Kudamati Area.
3) Sunday, 25 April 2004, FKM/RMS supporters hosted a celebration of RMS? birthday in the courtyard of dr. Alex Manuputty?s house, attended by approximately 300 people. Aside from RMS? flag, the UN flag alsto stood there. After the celebration ceremony went for 50 minutes, the police force came and captured FKM Secretary General Moses Tuanakotta, and pulled down the RMS and UN flag. Moses? capture resulted a mass concentration; when exiting the area the crowd increased up to 200 people. The number of crowd keeps increasing up to 1000 people followed Moses, who was escorted to the POLDA station, 2.5 km away, by the police force who were on foot. The condition, in which the number of mass increased, and Moses was escorted on foot, resulted in a perception that the occurrence was a FKM/RMS parade. Some of the people crowd followed Moses on foot, others by motorbikes.
4) On the way to the POLDA station, the crown kept on lifting the RMS flags. Although the flags were confiscated by the police, more flags kept appearing. After a mass demonstration was done in peace in front of the POLDA station, around 30-40 people were let in to negotiate with the police. Once the representative of the demonstrators went into the station, the rest of the crowd were then asked to go home, escorted by the police.
5) After the demonstration incident, the FKM/RMS crowds were transported home, escorted by the police. As they passed Tugu Trikora area until Pohon Pule area (around Soa Bali), approximately 12.30 PM, the demonstrators were stopped and thrown rocks at by anti-FKM/RMS groups, wearing red-white flags as symbol. The police started firing and 8 people who got hit were then taken to RS Al-Fatah hospital, furthermore, 20 people were arrested. The firing did not result any more major mass concentration, but within a short period, bombs and grenades exploded. According to observations at the scene, it was the explosions that started mass concentration from both sides of the conflicting parties.
6) The shootings by the police resulted in 6 deaths from those whoe were taken to Al-FAtah Hospital. The deaths triggered increasing sentiments between the two faiths. The situation heated up, burnings escalated until Mardika area, where newly rebuilt houses were burnt. In the Mardika area, one person died, Noke Meyer; she was burnt to death in one of the houses.
7) An hour later, the situation worsened; burnings occurred in refugee/IDP?s residential areas and camps which were recently built in Poka and Rumatiga areas. The residents tried to escape the burnings by swimming to the sea, and some evacuated on boats, some others swam to Galala. The rest who were left was evacuated to Yon Zipur Base in Poka and Rumatiga.
8) At the same time, the fire continued until Anthony Rhibokh Street. The Muslim mass entered the area and burnt the UN center. The burnings carried on nearing to GPM Hospital. Then the mass reversed and moved towards Tugu Trikora, and threw Molotov bombs and burnt rubber tires at the Silo Church which was recently built at the center of Ambon City. The mass, identifying themselves using religious symbols, then attacked each other by throwing things, as well as using bombs and weapons (assembled?). At the same time, around the area of Tanah Lapang Kecil (Talake) a groups of mass concentrated, followed by house burnings. Information was also acquired on few snipers around Tugu Trikora and Anthony Rhibok Street, aiming to shoot at the residents and security force, resulting in 2 shot victims on the Brimob?s side (security force). The deaths increased tensions and violence intensity.
9) Aside from Al-Fatah Hospital, victims are also taken to Bhakti Rahayu Hospital. According to TVRI(national TV station) as many as 90 people were hospitalized, where 10 of them had died. Although so, from the field, an information mentioned that (up until 25 April evening), shot-wounded victims added up to 98 people, with 29 dead (19 were Christians and 10 were Muslims). Meanwhile, some patients that were treated at the GPM Hospital were then evacuated to Bhakti Rahayu Hospital and Baileo Oikumene Building, because of the fragile situation surrounding GPM Hospital.
10) Based on the information of the security force?s movement, it can be concluded that although the tension, flag hoisting and RMS birthday celebration plan was known, sufficient action was not taken to prevent the spread of flag hoisting and RMS birthday celebration act. Few incidents that supports the previous statements are:
a) In the RMS birthday celebration location, which have been suspected as the main celebrating venue in Ambon City for a while, not preventive measures were taken. The celebration went on for 50 minutes and the flag was successfully hoisted. Forbidding the flag hoisting was a start which at the end enabled the security force and the public to blame FKM/RMS for the incidents. Meanwhile, the security force which patrols the area prior to RMS birthday celebration was only from Sectoral Police Force of Sirimau Unit. The patrolling was only done in the main road, it did not enter the PMI Aisle, where the house of dr Alex Manuputty is located.
b) When shootings occurred around the Tugu Trikora between the two conflicting masses, none of the TNI personnel was at sight. Only policemen were there to secure the situation. The situation contradicts the previous night, where a lot of unarmed TNI personnel spread out in local residential areas, but none of the policemen were at sight; the TNI spread out was said as a move to anticipate the RMS birthday celebration. c) The security force did not do a lot on the scenes when violence, such as the burnings, occurred.
11) A number of statements from the security force and the local government on the 25 April 2004 violence in Ambon is gathered below: a) Acting on the present condition the security force has ordered Siaga-1, highest alertness level for Ambon City. The Kapolres (Head of Police Resort) stated, ?RMS is playing cats-dogs, that?s why a lot of RMS flags are hoisted?.
b) Governor of Maluku, in an evening broadcast on 25 April 2004 on TVRI Ambon stated, ?The RMS issue has been handled by the security force by making captures, therefore the communities are asked not to make any actions on themselves?. Meanwhile, Kapolda (Head of Province Police Force) and the Pandam (Regional Military Command Chief) has asked personnel addition frpm ouside Maluku to Ambon. Based on the above chronology, few things can be brought up, they are:
1) The violent incidents occurred after the capture of Moses Tuanakotta was let to happen. The ?let to happen? occurrence to the birthday celebration of RMS in dr. Alex Manuputty house was a part of conflict induction process. Previous to conflict induction process , there was also a polemic about the RMS flag hoisting on the mass media, and also from the statement from the Forum Pemuda Muslim Baguala (FPMB) and Pemuda Reformasi Maluku (PRM), saying that they are ready to fight, even physically, if needed, against FKM/RMS separatist movement. The evidence of such ?let? of the violent occurrence can be strengthened by the contradictions reflected in the attitude of the security force pre and post 25 April 2004. Previous to 25 April 2004, the security force have anticipated the situation and have made anticipative statements. Although so, as violence broke, there were very limited security personnel on duty, these personnel did not take any firm actions.
2) Trigger incident, which was the incident that resulted the collective violent acts between residents, is actually the incident where the initial demonstrators, going home, were stopped and thrown at. It seems like the trigger incident did not receive enough attention, instead the information was overturned, saying that the trigger was the FKM/RMS mass parade. From the chronological report, it is obvious that what happened was not a planned parade. The mass escorts, occurred because Moses Tuanakotta was escorted on foot by the police, were seen as a parade because they were carrying flags, even though it was not a parade. The 2.5 km escorting was very provocative and obviously generated increase of mass. As additional information, Ambon is a small city, therefore such mass display will definitely attract attention.
The slow and not firm actions from the security force and local government have enabled the possibility of slowness of conflict escalation prevention. Rumors and issues developed before 25 April 2004 and during the shootings at Tugu Trikora to Pohon Pule have also induce the conflict condition and enabled the conflict to erupt in a number of area points inside and outside Ambon City. Burnings in the area points are coincidentally areas where rehabilitation and rebuilding efforts are ongoing and also where process of acceptance between the communities are underway. Collective violent acts occurred on 25 April 2004 have destructed the area and disappointed the critical effort of returning the IDPs which was currently initiated. 3) Based on the above analysis, it can be said that the collective violent acts between residents in 25 April 2004 in Ambon is not triggered by inter-faith factors. The incident occurred because the heat of previous inter-faith problem, which was still in process of reconciliation effort, was reset alight again by using the political issue of RMS.
Monday, 26 April 2004
1. Since 04.00 WIT (Eastern Indonesia Time), rioting mass have acted by entering residential areas in Talake, and they have managed to burn a part of the UKIM campus , the part which could be saved from the previous riot, leaving nothing standing of the campus building. Until 11 am, attacking mass have burnt the residential areas on the skirts of Wainitu and kept on going to enter OSM area. Meanwhile, from field monitoring, the requested help of a battalion from Brimob Kelapa Dua squad have arrived in Ambon City this morning (26/4). Later in the afternoon, another battalion from TNI AD, with no clarity of squad origins, is scheduled to arrive in Ambon. Acquired information said that 5 additional force battalion was requested at this beginning stage. Until this afternoon, the tension is still high, and numbers of victims have not yet been confirmed.
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