Pattern of violence scarring nation

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 March, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 March, 1999, 12:00am

The latest outbreak of violence, in Borneo, bears all the hallmarks of the kind of conflict now sprouting across Indonesia - a disenfranchised indigenous population, the influx of migrants from other parts of the archipelago and a thirst among those involved for rumour as opposed to fact.

The cliche about people 'running amok' offers little explanation for such outbursts and does a disservice to those involved. Analysts consulted on the subject say the reasons are far more deep-rooted and rational.

A World Bank source said: 'There are four basic reasons for these outbreaks: land disputes, warped social policy, official patronage and a culture of rumour.' In West Kalimantan, the local power balance has been affected by forced transmigration programmes, in which people from the island of Madura (near Java) were sent to relatively unpopulated parts of Kalimantan.

They have been arriving since the 1930s, but their numbers increased significantly in the 1970s. Under former president Suharto's New Order policies, they were given deforestation rights to encourage them to stay and start palm-oil cultivation - directly infringing on indigenous Dayak ways of life and agriculture.

Meanwhile, Dayaks are likely to be Christian while Madurese are largely Muslim. The local security forces apparatus reflects these divisions, with the army, rightly or wrongly, seen to be siding with the Christians and the police with the Madurese.

Added to the mix are migrants from Malaysia, Java and a large population of ethnic Chinese, all competing for social or economic clout.