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Causes of Conflict in Indonesia

Indonesia Map (

Indonesia Map (

So what can be done about this? There are a couple of things that can be done but overall there are some issues for which I hope you have more solutions than I do. Clearly the way these conflicts are portrayed in the media (newspapers and the broadcast media in particular) is critical. In Indonesia one of the things that is striking is how much the Muslim side of the conflict is portrayed in the media and how much the international press focuses almost exclusively on the Christian victims. In fact there are an equal number of victims and perpetrators on both sides. It is critically important that the media be attended to as a factor in the conflict. I also think you need an instant response from civil society groups to counter some of the more extremist interpretations of the conflict. You need clear and public prosecution of those involved in the violence. You need to work on building civil society so you don’t have - as you have in many parts of Indonesia - all the NGOs on one side of the conflict. In West Kalimantan the Dayaks had all the NGOs and the Madurese had virtually no civil society organizations to work at a community level, at the grassroots level. The same was largely true in Ambon; most of the NGOs were Christian and not Muslim. This is something to think about as we look toward conflict resolution. You clearly need skilled leadership at the national and local levels, which we don’t have in Indonesia at the moment.

There is an issue about misguided peacekeeping efforts that needs to be looked at. In Indonesia one of the things that has happened is that these peace pacts have been almost forced on the population by governments, which involve bringing together the leading Muslim and the leading Christian or the leading Dayak and the leading Madurese in a ceremony and everybody thinks this is significant when in fact none of the underlying causes have been addressed. It actually makes things worse because people believe that something has been done. And if the conflict breaks out again there are accusations that one of the two parties in the pact has been acting in bad faith and therefore it just sets everything off again. So we need to look at how peace pacts and conflict resolution and agreements are actually achieved.

Finally I think strengthening police training -- not a very sexy proposal -- is actually something critically important in terms of resolving any of these conflicts in Indonesia.

One of the things that is much more difficult to resolve is the antipathy toward migrants in a settler-migrant sort of dispute and there are no easy answers for redressing some of these policies of the past.