Causes, Symptoms and Sustainable Resolution

Research Paper 1 2001-02

Internal Conflict in Indonesia: Causes, Symptoms and Sustainable Resolution

Chris Wilson
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Group
7 August 2001


Major Issues Introduction

Section 1-The Conflicts

The Jakarta-Provincial Relationship since Independence
a) Aceh
Causes of Tension and the Response of Jakarta
Current Conflict and the Response of the Wahid Administration
b) Irian Jaya
Causes of Tension and the Response of Jakarta
Current Conflict and the Response of the Wahid Administration
c) Maluku
Causes of Tension and the Response of Jakarta
Current Conflict
Response of the Wahid Administration
d) Kalimantan
Causes of Tension and the Response of Jakarta
Current Conflict and the Response of the Wahid Government
e) Summary

Section 2-Possible Strategies Under a Megawati Administration

The Implications of a Return to Suppression

Section 3-Possible Avenues for Peaceful Resolution

a) Aceh
b) Irian Jaya
c) Maluku
d) Kalimantan

Section 4-Implications for Australia


Figure 1: Indonesia (Source United Nations: Map No 4110)

Major Issues

Indonesia is currently beset by a number of violent conflicts of both a separatist and communal nature. These conflicts appear to have intensified in the past two years, as the consequences of years of authoritarian and often misguided policies coincide with processes of political and economic transition. Ongoing internal conflict has major potential economic and security implications for Indonesia and concomitantly, for Australia. This paper will therefore examine the underlying dynamics of four major conflicts, those in Aceh, Irian Jaya, Maluku and Kalimantan. In assessing the major grievances that drive these conflicts, it will be argued that a conservative security-focussed approach to internal conflict is likely to at best temporarily control the violence, and at worst exacerbate it. As a change of government in Jakarta makes an examination of possible approaches to these conflicts more pertinent, the paper will conclude with a consideration of some possible non-military avenues to their sustainable resolution.

Democratisation, economic reform, and the lifting of the social and political order associated with the Soeharto era since May 1998 seem to have coincided with an exacerbation of divisions within Indonesian society on ethnic, religious, political and social grounds. To a large extent these tensions can be explained by the policies of the Soeharto era, by policies of centralisation, exploitation of the periphery, environmental degradation, human rights abuses, and a preclusion of civil society.

In the cases of Aceh and Irian Jaya, sections of the local populations have struggled for decades against the Indonesian security forces with the aim of obtaining independence or at least provincial autonomy. In Maluku, the breakdown of traditional social structures and the lack of strong 'civil' institutions independent of the state, along with lines of patronage and corruption have created inter-communal tension between Malukan Christians and Muslims. In Kalimantan, years of environmental degradation, transmigration and rising inter-ethnic tension have led to severe ethnic conflict between Dayak and Madurese communities.

These conflicts have been responsible for thousands of (primarily civilian) deaths in the past few years alone. Indonesian security forces have been accused of human rights abuses in their struggle against independence movements in Aceh and Irian Jaya, and have proved seemingly almost powerless to halt crimes against humanity in Maluku and Kalimantan. It is estimated there are now around one million 'internally displaced' refugees throughout the country, due largely to internal violence.

These ongoing conflicts have major potential implications for Indonesia and in turn for Australia and the region. Apart from the huge cost in terms of human insecurity, internal conflict deters foreign investment and tourism, detracts from Indonesia's role on the world stage and diverts badly needed resources. As a neighbour of Indonesia, Australia has strong economic, security and ethical interests in the resolution of these conflicts and other manifestations of Indonesia's internal strife. Continuing conflict may affect Australian trade with Indonesia, create security concerns in the form of refugees and affected sea-lanes, and in an extreme case create the partial fragmentation of the Indonesian state.

As was shown by the East Timor crisis, internal conflict in Indonesia also holds the potential to affect the (gradually improving) relationship between Australia and its giant neighbour. To once again posit an extreme example, ongoing violent conflict and human rights abuses may create demands for external intervention. Therefore although such conflict is an internal matter for Indonesia, Australia has a strong interest in the manner in which Indonesia approaches the nation's internal conflicts.

The recently ousted President Abdurrahman Wahid attempted a number of non-military, political solutions to some of these conflicts. However erratic implementation and obstacles associated with structural factors and vested interests have undermined these attempts. With a change in government in Jakarta, many analysts are predicting a substantial change in approach to internal conflict. Megawati Soekarnoputri's apparent close ties to the military and her nationalistic sentiments and statements have led a number of analysts to suggest she may seek a more hard-line and less conciliatory approach to conflicts that threaten Indonesian territorial integrity. This paper will examine what predictions can be made of Megawati's likely approach to separatist and communal conflict, and the possible implications of a more conservative, security-focussed approach.

An examination of the causes and development of the major internal conflicts currently besetting Indonesia strongly suggests that a more hardline security-focussed approach to these conflicts may have a number of detrimental consequences. This paper will argue that a security-focused or military approach to the conflicts, that does not address the underlying grievances associated with them, is likely to at best control the violence until such time as it re-emerges, or at worst intensify and exacerbate the conflict. The most effective means of ensuring Indonesian territorial integrity and long-term stability, it is suggested, is to seek a sustainable resolution of each conflict by addressing the grievances of the parties involved.


The Republic of Indonesia is currently stricken by a number of violent and in some cases protracted conflicts. Separatist struggles continue in Aceh and Irian Jaya. Communal violence has erupted along ethnic and religious lines in Kalimantan and Maluku and several other regions. According to Indonesian Government figures, more than one million people are now 'internally displaced' within the republic due largely to internal conflict.(1)

These conflicts appear to have intensified in the era of reformasi, in the two years since the fall of the Soeharto regime. Divisions within Indonesian society along ethnic, religious, and social lines largely created by the consequences of years of authoritarian rule seem to have been exacerbated by recent political reform such as the process of elections and the removal of restrictions on mass expression and participation and economic reform. The ongoing effects of the 1997 economic crisis also seems to have exacerbated existing tension.

These conflicts potentially have a number of serious implications for Indonesia and the region. Seemingly intractable instability and conflict will continue to deter foreign investment, making Indonesia's economic recovery more difficult. Indonesian regional and global diplomatic initiatives will also be undermined by perceptions of domestic instability. Other effects of continuing conflict include the great cost expended on internal security, with the security forces currently engaged in internal conflict from one end of the archipelago to the other.

Although unlikely, the most severe consequence of ongoing and unresolved conflict could possibly be the separation of one or more provinces from the republic.(2) The secession of one or both of the provinces experiencing strong independence movements could create a regional humanitarian crisis in terms of conflict, refugee flows and development issues. If a process of disintegration were to occur, it would be likely to be accompanied by severe conflict and deprivation, the creation of additional, possibly unstable states lacking in resources and infrastructure, and the possibility of providing 'demonstration effects' to separatist movements in other Southeast Asian countries. The island of Java with around 110 million people and few natural resources could itself face serious difficulties becoming a viable state. Any or all of these occurrences, however remote, could alter the character of the Indonesian state, and destabilise the region overall.

The recent administration of President Abdurrahman Wahid (October 1999-July 2001)(3) attempted to resolve at least some of these conflicts through various attempted political solutions. However many of the non-military strategies attempted by President Wahid proved unsuccessful due to a number of factors including a lack of political and military support and inadequate organisation and implementation. President Wahid's erratic style of governance and often weak and confrontational style of management also played a large role in precluding effective implementation. Largely for these reasons President Wahid became widely considered as ineffectual as head of state, and Jakarta has recently been embroiled in a political crisis. At a special session on 23 July, the People's Consultative Assembly revoked the presidential mandate of Wahid and elected Megawati Soekarnoputri as president.(4) It is possible this may have substantial ramifications with regard to internal conflict. Due to the combined influences of a growing concern in Jakarta regarding national unity, Megawati's own apparent nationalistic leanings, and a possible greater role for the military in politics, many analysts suggest Jakarta may revert to a more security based approach to the state's current internal conflicts.

However through a discussion of the causes and development of four current conflicts in Indonesia, those in Aceh, Irian Jaya, Maluku and Kalimantan, this paper will argue that a security-focused approach to these conflicts is inadequate. Such an approach would fail to address the underlying grievances that drive them, and therefore would at best contain the violence until such time as it re-emerges, or at worst will intensify the conflicts. This paper will argue that a stable, peaceful and prosperous Indonesia is more likely to be achieved through a sustainable resolution of the underlying tensions associated with the conflicts, rather than solely through military containment. The last section of this paper will therefore discuss some general and specific avenues to a peaceful resolution of the four conflicts.

Section 1-The Conflicts

The Jakarta-Provincial Relationship since Independence

The first decade of Indonesian independence was characterised in large part by strong centrifugal forces. Following the declaration of independence by Soekarno and Hatta in 1945, disappointed expectations of federation led to a number of rebellions, including in Maluku (the South Moluccas) and Aceh with the Darul Islam movement. From the early 1950s Jakarta gradually centralised political control of the regions, quelling major provincial rebellions in 1958. In the following year political power was placed more fully in the hands of the president with Soekarno's implementation of 'Guided Democracy'. However, this relationship between Jakarta and the regions was undermined by the political and economic crisis of the early to mid 1960s, culminating in the 1965 coup in which Lieutenant General Soeharto rose to power.(5)

The centralisation of national political power recommenced apace under the Soeharto regime, with the military a key force in the relationship between centre and periphery. Through the 'floating mass' political ideology, Jakarta controlled both provincial and district level politics with political appointments (often military officers) and economic subsidies.(6) However, as will be seen in this section, the centralising policies of Jakarta have had a number of detrimental consequences.

  1. Aceh


The province of Aceh is on the far-western reaches of the Indonesian archipelago, on the northern tip of Sumatra. Aceh has a strong resource base, exporting US$1.3 billion worth of natural gas in 1998.(7) Known as the 'verandah of Mecca' (Serambi Mekkah), the province has a predominantly Muslim population of around four and a half million and a history distinct from the rest of the archipelago, stretching back to the region's existence as an independent sultanate with control of northern Sumatra. Following colonisation by the Netherlands in 1873, the Acehnese continued to provide fierce resistance to the colonial administration. As American historian Harry Benda argues, Aceh therefore entered the independent Indonesia as a pre-existing political entity, 'as a virtually autonomous Imperium in Imperio'.(8) However this autonomy was not to last. In 1953 Aceh was incorporated into the province of North Sumatra and thereby reduced to the status of regency or district.(9) This history of independence and struggle has provided a strong set of Acehnese national myths, which to some extent provide the ideological foundation of the current struggle for independence.(10)

Causes of Tension and the Response of Jakarta

In the early years of Indonesian independence, the central government was able to maintain some measure of Acehnese support for the republic. In the early years of the New Order era beginning in 1966, this was also achieved, partly by 'coopting' local elites into the administration and thereby ensuring elite support for the policies of Golkar (the ruling party led by President Soeharto).(11) This Jakarta controlled administration was also accompanied by a strong, centrally controlled military authority. However, throughout the early years of Indonesian independence, a growing number of Acehnese elites and members of the wider population increasingly perceived themselves as alienated from economic and political control as power was gradually centralised within Jakarta. Many in Aceh were also aggrieved at the imposition of secular law throughout the nation following independence, and upon Aceh itself.

Aceh has a vast array of natural resources including timber, coffee and palm oil, and major oil and gas reserves. However, the province continues to have the highest percentage of poor(12) on the island of Sumatra.(13) Of the massive income obtained from Aceh's resource strength mentioned above, only approximately five per cent remains in the province.(14) Most educational and health facilities are located around the industrial zones such as Lhokseumawe.(15) Most businesses are owned by business elites in Jakarta, and middle sized local businesses generally owned by non-indigenous Aceh residents.(16) By the mid-1970s many elites in Aceh began to perceive the vast difference between the contribution made by Aceh to Indonesia's development, and the input by Jakarta back into the province itself. The benefits of the oil boom in the late-1970s and early-1980s throughout other parts of the country were contrasted with the living standard of the Acehnese population.(17)


Figure 2: Aceh (Source:

This growing elite opposition to Jakarta was accompanied by the emergence of insurgent groups such as the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka-GAM) which aimed to use forceful means to pressure Jakarta into allowing greater autonomy or independence for the province.(18) The GAM has its roots in the Darul Islam rebellion against Jakarta led by Daud Beureu'eh in the late-1950s. Following a period of Libyan training and arms supply, the GAM undertook a fully-fledged armed struggle from the late-1980s. More subtle forms of protest have also occurred at the village level against the appropriation of land and environmental damage.(19)

The response of the Indonesian authorities to the struggle was heavy-handed and, along with socioeconomic grievances, provides the reason for the development of wider calls for independence. For the nine years up until 1998, Aceh was an Indonesian Military Operational Area (DOM-Daerah Operasi Militer).(20) Large numbers of battalions were stationed in the province in reaction to a relatively small GAM force. Most estimates of casualties resulting from the military campaign, suggest the decade saw between 2000 and 5000 people killed, including large numbers of civilians. The non-Acehnese origin of the troops stationed in the province further enhanced the Acehnese feeling of alienation.(21) Military suppression is widely considered responsible for the transformation of GAM from a small force, unrepresentative of the wider population into the much larger and effective force that exists today.(22)

With a long history of Islam in Aceh,(23) religion provides both a major issue driving separatist sentiment, and a source of identity and cohesion for those involved in the struggle.(24) The absence of Sharia (Syari'at) law has been a major factor behind demands for an independent Aceh since the Darul Islam movement. Religion is accompanied by a number of other issues that drive demands for independence. These grievances include the issue of revenue from Aceh's natural resources and the past and ongoing maltreatment of ordinary Acehnese by the TNI (the Indonesian military) and police. These long standing grievances along with continuing human rights abuse combined with the concurrent political transition to create massive support for independence. Support for independence is now widespread among the population, with pro-independence demonstrations in November 1999 drawing over 500 000 people.(25)

Current Conflict and the Response of the Wahid Administration

President Wahid attempted a less coercive approach to the problems of the restive province. Recognising the correlation between military suppression and support for the independence movement, Wahid sought a program of more conciliatory measures, including visiting the province, an offer of special autonomy, aid, the implementation of Sharia law and greater revenue from oil and gas exploitation.(26) The Indonesian People's Representative Council (the DPR) has been supportive of a draft law regarding special autonomy above and beyond the decentralisation currently being undertaken (See the discussion of this process later in this section). This legislation, drafted by Acehnese legislators would give the Acehnese provincial government control over everything relating to the province except for foreign relations and defence and monetary policy. This would include 80 per cent of the province's resource revenue, an Acehnese police force, Islamic 'Sharia' Law, an Acehnese flag, and Acehnese control over the appointment of governor.(27)

While many of these attempts at conciliation have been undermined by erratic implementation, several other factors have largely precluded the success of these strategies. Security operations have continued in tandem with political attempts at resolution. While Wahid argued for an increased military presence only to protect the Exxon Mobil gas plant and for negotiations as a means to end the conflict, there was little support for his conciliatory stance in parliament.(28) The then vice president, Megawati Soekarnoputri, was reluctant to make concessions to the separatist movement in case such concessions served to increase separatist sentiment in the province.(29) Wahid's lack of influence over the military establishment also greatly disadvantaged him in his plans to implement such measures. The military did not fully obey Wahid's commands to withdraw combat forces from the province, and despite pressure to bring military officers to trial for past human rights abuses, no senior personnel have yet been brought to justice. This reluctance to make concessions can be largely explained by a strong ideological aversion to any undermining of the unitary state. However, the International Crisis Group (ICG) recently released a report pointing to the strong possibility that due to the economic and political benefits it receives from the current instability, the TNI may actually prefer to see the status quo retained.(30) The report also points to the difficulty faced in ensuring TNI orders are followed on the ground in Aceh, as military structures of command have recently been severely weakened. The natural resources of the province also provide a strong material reason for widespread reluctance to accede to Acehnese demands.

In addition, following decades of military operations and abuse, many Acehnese see these recent moves by the Wahid administration as too little too late. Therefore any concessions made by the military are received with a great deal of scepticism on the part of the Acehnese. The absence of any prosecution of TNI officers for human rights abuses reinforces this scepticism.(31) Policy reversals by President Wahid did not help the situation. Having been elected declaring his intentions to offer a referendum on autonomy and independence for Aceh, the president subsequently decided against this option.(32) GAM leaders continue to demand independence from Jakarta, but as was discussed above, dissent is widespread at the grass-roots level regarding social, political and economic discrimination.

For these reasons violence continues in the province. A 'humanitarian pause' instigated in June 2000 (but objected to by the TNI) did little to contain hostilities, the first six-month period seeing 500 people killed. Six hundred people were killed in January 2001 alone, one of the bloodiest periods in the province's history.(33) A student-led pro-independence rally in Aceh in November 2000 prompted a severe military crackdown, which in turn served to further increase support for GAM.(34) Calls for a more forceful response to the GAM mounted further in Jakarta after Exxon Mobil Indonesia closed its Aceh natural gas plant due to rebel activity in March.(35) Following a recent GAM attack on a military post in Lhokseumawe, troops destroyed around 200 homes in the town, creating around 2000 refugees.(36) At the time of writing, 10 more people have been killed in fighting in the province, including GAM guerillas, Mobile Police Brigade (BRIMOB) officers and civilians.(37) Evidence of abuses mounts. Gravesites containing the victims of the conflict, often children, have continued to be found throughout 2001.(38)

b) Irian Jaya


Irian Jaya lies at the far eastern edge of the Indonesian Republic, on the border with Papua New Guinea. The province, with a population of around 2 million, is also often referred to as West Papua, the name preferred by the original Melanesian Papuan inhabitants. During the process of decolonisation, Indonesia claimed the province on the basis of its successor status to the sovereignty of the Netherlands East Indies. However, the Netherlands did not hand over administration of the province until an agreement in 1962. Following an interim administration by the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA), Indonesia assumed total administration over the province in 1963.

Causes of Tension and the Response of Jakarta

In 1969 through an 'Act of Free Choice', 1026 Papuan leaders chosen by Jakarta voted unanimously for the province to become part of the Republic of Indonesia. Many Papuans claimed that this act of 'self-determination' had been forced upon the Papuan people through coercion, and was therefore not valid. Elements of resistance against Jakarta rule soon emerged, most notably the Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM).

Papuan grievances gradually deepened as the Jakarta driven policy of transmigration changed the demographic face of Irian Jaya. Large numbers of settlers from over-populated Java, Bali and elsewhere have arrived in the province in the last three decades, and now constitute a sizeable and visible portion of the Irian Jaya population. Non-Papuans now constitute around 15 per cent of the population.(39) These settlers have often been more highly educated than the indigenous population, and have therefore dominated employment in major sectors in the province, especially in the capital Jayapura.(40) Competition for land and resources also largely due to transmigration, is a major source of tension in the province.(41)

In addition to the policy of transmigration there has also been intensive exploitation of the natural resources of Irian Jaya. The US-based Freeport McMorran company now operates the world's largest gold mine on the Grasberg site in the province (situated near Tembagapura). This exploitation has been a major focus of protest by sections of certain Papuan communities, most notably the Amungme community.(42) The Papuans have numerous grievances against Jakarta and the mining companies operating in the province, including the destruction of spiritual landmarks and local forms of subsistence, and the use of a range of extrajudicial measures designed to quell protest against the mine. The United States Overseas Private Investment Corporation has reported that the tailings associated with the Freeport mine continue to cause widespread damage to the surrounding ecosystem, and therefore serious health hazards to the local communities.(43) There has also been little compensation for the use of land under customary ownership.(44) Papuans have in addition only recently been employed by the mine, and very few are represented in positions of authority on the site, the majority of positions going to Javanese settlers and other non-Papuans.(45) Many Papuans have therefore come to feel marginalised from the political and economic administration of the province.

Irian Jaya

Figure 3: Irian Jaya (Source:

The Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy,(46) argues that policies such as transmigration have resulted in an identity crisis for the Papuan people which has in turn led to calls for independence.(47) The differences associated with Melanesian ethnicity and Christian religion have provided an identity element to the independence movement, perhaps increasing the intractability of the conflict. Papuans have also felt that the central and local governments have done little to develop the Papuan communities in the same manner as those of the transmigrasi. According to the local Social Affairs Department, approximately 40 per cent of the Papuan population is living in poverty in remote areas where government aid does not reach.(48)

For these reasons, the decades following the Act of Free Choice were a period of low level fighting between the OPM and Indonesian security forces. Poorly armed and organised, the OPM campaign centred primarily around the kidnapping of Indonesian and international hostages, and the sabotage of gold and copper mining operations.(49) Papuan leaders claim a campaign of systematic human rights violations by the Indonesian authorities in response to the Papuan struggle, including killings, rape, arbitrary detention, torture and intimidation.(50) Dr Jusuf Wanandi of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies stated recently that while a political solution is suitable for the problem in Aceh, due to the Grasberg mine and other resources, Irian Jaya is too valuable to Indonesia for a moderate response to be pursued.

Current Conflict and the Response of the Wahid Administration

Perhaps encouraged by the greater political opportunity in Indonesia following the fall of Soeharto, and also by the success of East Timor in seceding, there has recently been an increase in independence sentiment in Irian Jaya. The Papuan independence movement has staged a number of rallies and protests in the province over the last two years.

President Wahid initially took a comparatively liberal approach to the independence movement. In the attempted implementation of a form of autonomy for the province, Wahid introduced various non-coercive measures to obtain the support of the Papuans. Wahid announced in January 2000 that the province would be renamed Papua, although this legislation was rejected by both the People's Consultative Assembly (the MPR) and the People's Representative Council (the DPR). He also allowed the raising of the Morning Star independence flag in the province, allowed and funded a West Papuan congress in May 2000,(51) and met Theys Eluay, the head of the Papuan Presidium in March 2001.(52) The government also announced an intensive health care program for the province.

President Wahid's attempts at a peaceful resolution of the Irian Jaya problem were however unsuccessful for a number of reasons. The leaders of the West Papuan independence movement rejected the form of autonomy offered by Jakarta, arguing it was more a means of streamlining Jakarta's management of the province.(53) Many Papuans feel that based on past experience, there is little to suggest Jakarta's latest offers should be treated with anything more than cynicism. President Wahid's approach to the province was also poorly planned and implemented, a fact that has not induced confidence or support amongst either the Papuan population or within political circles in Jakarta.

Many Indonesian politicians and military figures also have deep-seated concerns regarding the granting of significant autonomy to Irian Jaya. Unlike East Timor, Irian Jaya has consistently been recognised internationally as legitimately under Indonesian sovereignty, and the secession of the province would therefore signal the partial fragmentation of the Indonesian state. On a more material level, the Freeport McMorran Company, sitting on the world's richest goldmine in the province, is the republic's largest single taxpayer. The complete loss of this revenue is not acceptable to many in Jakarta. For these reasons Irian Jaya is unlikely to be relinquished with the relative 'ease' associated with East Timor in 1999.(54)

Therefore, when President Wahid's ad hoc and poorly planned approach to the separatist movement did not assuage Papuan demands, and instead resulted in a declaration of independence at the Papuan congress in May, Wahid seemed to change tack and acquiesce to those in Jakarta who favour a security-focussed approach.(55) Demonstrations and the raising of the Morning Star flag were subsequently banned. Violence in the province continued throughout 2000, with allegations in December of brutal beatings in police cells and two casualties following an OPM attack on the Abepura police station.(56) At the current time, the security forces seem to have suppressed the independence movement. Theys Eluay and three other separatist leaders have since May 2001, been held in custody and tried for subversion charges in a Jayapura court.

c) Maluku


North and South Maluku are two Indonesian provinces in the region formerly known as the Spice Islands. The region has a population of around 1.85 million, around half of which is Christian and half Muslim.(57) Since 1999 the region has been devastated by inter-religious conflict. There have been few in-depth analyses of the underlying causes of the Maluku crisis. While the conflict is ostensibly between religious groups, it seems that at the heart of the conflict is a struggle between groups for economic and political power. This competition is set against a background of the breakdown of traditional societal structures and an increasing distrust of the central government.(58)

Causes of Tension and the Response of Jakarta

The experience of Malukan Christians and Muslims differed markedly in the late colonial period.(59) Christians were favoured for positions of authority under the Dutch colonial administration. This preferential treatment was undermined with the arrival of the Japanese during World War II, who tended to favour Muslim groups. The relative political power of the two groups was thereby reversed.

However, while there had been occasional isolated incidents of violence between the communities, a relatively peaceful coexistence had been maintained through a system of traditional beliefs emphasising ethnic similarities rather than religious differences.(60) Through the system of pela gandong, a village of one religious denomination would be paired with another of different faith. In response to inter-communal tension, representatives of each community would convene and reach some form of reconciliation.(61) This meeting would be followed by a community wide ceremony involving apologies and more widespread reconciliation. However the system of pela gandong was undermined by a number of factors throughout the independence era beginning in 1949.


Figure 4: Maluku (Source:

Following the achievement of Indonesian independence, Christian support for an independent Republic of the South Moluccas (RMS) and the ensuing struggles between RMS soldiers and the Indonesian state, served to alienate Muslim communities and undermine the pela gandong system.(62) In the following decades, there was also a steady flow of transmigrants from elsewhere in the archipelago. Throughout the Soekarno and Soeharto eras, large numbers of transmigrants (primarily Butinese, Bugis and Makassarese from Sulawesi) settled in the Maluku Islands, especially in Ambon. These new communities were uninvolved in the pela gandong system, and the introduction of new ethnicities and religious groups into the region undermined the traditional beliefs and authority of traditional elites.

In North Maluku, internal migration due to expected volcanic activity also created tension.(63) The allotment of traditional Christian Kao land in North Halmahera to the displaced Muslim Makian population caused inter-communal tension that was exacerbated by cultural and religious difference. This movement also undermined the traditional authority of local elites and upset the traditional system of inter-communal conflict resolution. Throughout the Maluku region this transformation in local government was institutionalised by a national law replacing clan based leadership with a system of village heads. The traditional raja leaders of the pela gandong system no longer had the authority required for the resolution of inter-communal tensions.

In addition, the primarily Muslim transmigrant communities came to dominate local government and business, causing some Christian groups to perceive themselves as increasingly disenfranchised and vulnerable. In Ambon, Christians saw both an increasing number of business opportunities exploited by Bugis and other migrants at the expense of Christian traders, along with civil service positions being increasingly taken by both 'local' and transmigrant Muslims. This feeling of alienation seemed confirmed by President Soeharto's appointment of a Muslim governor in Ambon in 1996. Against this background of rising tension and threat perception, sporadic incidents of violence became representative of the fears each community held of the other.

The impact of the removal of traditional structures of peaceful coexistence seems to have been exacerbated by competition between groups for economic and political power, especially in Ambon City. While these groups defined themselves in terms of religious denomination, a number of analysts argue they are more realistically seen as hierarchical networks of interdependent groups from street gangs through to high level government officials.(64) Lines of patronage from Jakarta through to Ambon seem to have utilised inter-religious tension in order to retain influence in the economic and political spheres. As rumours spread regarding the other group, these connection networks became increasingly anxious and militant.(65) With each case of violence, negative perceptions by each group of the other seemed confirmed, and once serious conflict emerged, violence quickly escalated. In North Maluku, plans to split the province into two also led to economic and political competition. While violence may have initially been over material gains, with the absence of the system of pela gandong and negative perceptions held by each community, conflict quickly spread with little institutionalised means for its arrest.

Current Conflict

Following a fight between a Christian bus driver and a Muslim passenger in Ambon City in January 1999, violence quickly escalated, initially between Muslims from Sulawesi and Ambonese Christians, but soon continued between a variety of Muslim and Christian communities. By August the fighting had spread to North Maluku, where government plans to divide the province into two had resulted in competition between the Muslim Makian and Christian Kao groups. Communication between islands and the flow of refugees served to spread the conflict throughout the region. Since the incident in the bus terminal in Ambon, the Maluku region has seen a continuous succession of outbursts of violence in which over 5000 people have died.(66)

The introduction of a militant Islamic militia group, the Laskar Jihad, into the conflict in May 2000 has severely worsened the situation. Following the Christian massacre of around 500 Muslims in the district of Tobelo on Halmahera Island, calls emerged in Jakarta for strong action to protect Maluku Muslims. Despite President Wahid's command not to leave Java, 2000 members of the Yogyakarta based Laskar Jihad departed Java for Maluku. Within a month, the group orchestrated an attack on the village of Duma north of Tobelo in which at least 200 Christians were killed. The presence of the Laskar Jihad in the province is now considered the primary reason for the continuing violence.(67)

Response of the Wahid Administration

President Wahid seems to have been powerless to halt the violence. To some extent he was also prevented from acting too strongly in Maluku in order to maintain the support of Muslim politicians. His commands for the security forces to prevent the Laskar Jihad travelling to Maluku were ignored.(68) It also appears that the military no longer has the capacity needed to respond to inter-communal violence such as that in Maluku.

Inadequate policies and implementation, and declining military structures appear to have undermined attempts at halting the conflict. These factors have been epitomised by the increasing evidence that the military has itself been involved in numerous attacks. Despite an increased military presence to around 14 000 troops, the security forces failed to gain control of the situation. It became clear that this was in large part due to the involvement of the security forces in the conflict. Primarily Muslim military personnel became involved in clashes with Christian militias, and Christian police officers often fought alongside Christian militias against Muslims. Although 1400 troops were removed from the province for participation in the conflict, and a state of civil emergency declared in June 2000, soldiers were still subsequently filmed providing firepower for a Muslim assault on a Christian neighbourhood on Ambon.(69)

In showing its inability and/or lack of will to protect the various communities involved in the violence, the Indonesian Government has lost a great deal of credibility with those communities. This factor greatly increases the difficulty of finding a long-term solution to the conflict. While attempts at reconciliation have been made such as the meeting of 1500 representatives of communities, violence continues in the region.(70) On 20 May 2001 dozens of Christians were reported killed in Ambon.(71)

d) Kalimantan


The four provinces of Kalimantan are situated on the island of Borneo. The island boasts what has been one of the largest rainforests in the world. Indigenous Dayaks constitute around forty per cent of the population of Kalimantan and settlers from the island of Madura under five per cent, the remainder are constituted by Javanese, Bugis and other settlers. The Dayaks have traditionally been 'slash and burn' farmers, geographically rotating their exploitation of the forest for fruit, resin and more recently rubber. They are predominantly Christian but also hold strong animist beliefs, while the Madurese are devoutly Muslim.

Causes of Tension and the Response of Jakarta

While the media has generally portrayed the conflict in Kalimantan as a primordial conflict in which Dayak head-hunting has reemerged in a situation of anarchy and ethnic hatred, most analysts point to a more complex situation. In most informed explanations of the conflict in Kalimantan, Dayak violence stems largely from grievances arising from being economically and politically marginalised in the province.(72)

Kalimantan (Borneo)

Figure 5: Kalimantan (Source:

Logging and plantation contracts granted by President Soeharto to Jakarta based companies have resulted in a highly systematic and devastating exploitation of Kalimantan's forests by commercial groups who do not recognise, and are not required by law to recognise, Dayak land ownership. In indigenous law, an area of land cleared by Dayak farmers was owned by that farmer or group who would return periodically to utilise it. Such non-continuous utilisation was not recognised by the Indonesian Government however, and areas of land were often allocated to logging and plantations. The profits of such commercial development were also primarily transferred out of the province, often primarily to allies of President Soeharto.(73)

The environmental degradation associated with the commercial development of Kalimantan has in many cases been extreme. In a number of instances, President Soeharto gave support to major projects of land clearance for rice fields and oil palm plantations.(74) Thomas Walton, an environmental specialist with the World Bank in Jakarta, has estimated that the dry lowland forest on Indonesian Borneo, the most bio-diverse habitat, will be gone by 2010.(75) Logging and other enterprises also served to pollute rivers, depleting water and fish supplies.

The commercialisation of the Kalimantan forests has been accompanied by the transmigration of workers and settlers from the overcrowded islands of Java, Bali and Madura. Throughout the Soeharto era, around 300 000 settlers from the arid island of Madura settled in Kalimantan.(76) The Madurese were often resettled in Kalimantan for the building of roads necessary for the logging industry. As large areas of forest were cleared for logging in the Sampit region in Central Kalimantan, these areas were often transformed into farms by Madurese settlers.(77) Dayak villagers were often reduced to poverty, living on the outskirts of towns. The influx of settlers associated with logging and other commercial ventures also depleted the amount of game in the forest, the Madurese often taking the usual place of Dayaks in dominating local markets. Madurese settlers thereby rightly or wrongly became visible as the main beneficiaries of the removal of customary land title and the degradation of the environment.(78)

Many Dayaks also perceive themselves as politically alienated, shunned by President Soeharto for a perceived leftism and restrained by the few political opportunities afforded by authoritarian political structures. The Dayaks have enjoyed very little political representation, with very few Dayak provincial governors since 1965.(79) With little opportunity for political involvement, avenues for peaceful resolution of disputes are limited. Many Dayaks feel the police afford them little protection from Madurese violence.

The economic and political dispossession of the Dayaks has in turn led to a resurgence of a Dayak identity. As Madurese settlers ventured further inland, increased contact between the two groups often led to disagreements over such issues as land ownership and these disagreements were often exacerbated by religious and ethnic differences. Increasingly negative perceptions of Madurese as violent and mean meant that relatively minor incidents often led to serious instances of communal conflict as occurred in 1977, 1979, 1983 and 1992. In 1997 Dayak-Madurese conflict initiated by a Madurese attack on a Catholic church in West Kalimantan caused over 1000 deaths.(80) Each incident exacerbated the negative perceptions that each community held of the other.

The grievances of the Dayaks during the New Order era were too often considered as seditious and detrimental to economic development.(81) Therefore, communal tensions in Kalimantan were considered suitable for military containment. As Greg Sheridan argues, during the New Order era, the Indonesian military would have 'subdued any rebels quickly and often bloodily'.(82) Any protestors were often also denounced as PKI (the outlawed Indonesian Communist Party).(83) Presumably suppression, including such tactics as summary execution, disallowed any addressing of the Dayak grievances at the root of the conflict, grievances which have erupted again in 2001.

The consequences of the tight military control exercised throughout the New Order era have been more complex than mere coercion however. The threat of military force and the centrality of military authority to all institutions have effectively disallowed the development of any civil society.(84) The military was the final arbiter of all disputes, negating the need for the development of civil institutions involving all communities. However since the New Order era, the military has suffered declining morale, failing lines of authority and decreased funding. With a decline in the capacity of the security forces, Kalimantan society found itself with little if any means of addressing inter-communal grievances.(85)

Current Conflict and the Response of the Wahid Government

While there had been sporadic attacks in Central Kalimantan before Christmas 2000, widespread violence flared again in the province from 18 February 2001 in the town of Sampit and quickly spread to the provincial capital Palangkaraya. In the first 10 days of fighting, the official death toll stood at 421, many of the victims beheaded.(86) In one attack in late March alone, 118 people were killed. The violence aimed at long-term migrants from the island of Madura has driven 70 000 Madurese to flee the province. It is estimated that since late February 2001 Dayak attacks on Madurese settlers in Central Kalimantan have claimed over 1000 lives.(87)

Wahid met Dayak and Madurese representatives in Jakarta in March 2001 to try and pressure both sides to stop the violence.(88) The police forces have however done little to halt the violence, being low in numbers and poorly trained and equipped. Even with reinforcements the security forces seemed incapable of halting the violence, instead merely assisting in the evacuation of the Madurese community. As with most of the current conflicts in Indonesia, there are rumours of military attempts to undermine the reformist government in Jakarta, and to undermine the police forces thereby showing their own indispensability.(89) It is beyond the scope of this paper to evaluate these claims however.

e) Summary

The preceding discussion has shown that in these four cases, the policies of the central government, particularly during the New Order, have exacerbated existing socio-economic and cultural tensions, and created grievances that largely drive the conflicts today. Unrestrained exploitation of natural resources and associated environmental degradation, the benefits of which accrued primarily to Jakarta, have created perceptions of exploitation by the centre of a marginalised periphery, especially in Aceh and Irian Jaya. The process of transmigration, both state-sponsored and spontaneous has added to that perception of economic marginalisation especially in Irian Jaya, as transmigrants have often been the most visible local beneficiaries of economic development. This economic displacement has often also been accompanied by feelings of political marginalisation as traditional elites are undermined by government policies and demographic changes. In a number of the cases discussed here such as Maluku and Kalimantan, it has been this socio-economic competition between groups that has created environments of tension and fear.

From the preceding discussion it also becomes apparent that the former authoritarian nature of the Indonesian political system has served to both intensify a number of the conflicts discussed here, and to preclude the development of any institutionalised means of their lasting resolution.(90) In at least two of the cases discussed here, Aceh and Irian Jaya, past and present military suppression of dissent and protest is widely considered to have sustained the separatist struggles by increasing support within local communities. Support for the independence struggles in Aceh and Irian Jaya has grown in direct proportion to human rights abuses.

In another sense the legacy of authoritarian political structures can be seen as more complex than just causing resentment against military suppression. The New Order allowed little opportunity for civil society to develop. The regime's prescription for national unity and development required the creation of a 'floating mass' (massa mengambang) of a depoliticised population. The dual function role (dwifungsi) of the military was basically a means of providing for military control of all levels of society.(91) With a decline in TNI capacity as the final arbiter of inter-communal disputes, the absence of impartial and legitimate institutions has increased the likelihood of violence. As the political scientist Samuel Huntington argues, 'a society with weak political institutions lacks the ability to curb the excesses of personal and parochial desires'.(92)


One attempt at overcoming this lack of adequate institutions of government has been the recent process of devolution undertaken by Jakarta. The process of decentralisation initiated in 1999 has been a major attempt at the reform of Indonesia's system of governance, especially the relationship between the centre and periphery. Advocates of the decentralisation process contend that it will serve to reduce sources of conflict in the regions and therefore the centrifugal forces that currently drive the separatist movements under discussion. A number of dissenting voices have however argued that the process may in fact increase competition for resources, thereby strengthening separatist and other centrifugal forces. It is still too early to ascertain with any confidence which if either of the forecasts will prove correct.(93)

Law No 22/1999 on Regional Government and Law No 25/1999 on Fiscal Balance between the Centre and the Regions enacted by the Habibie administration, were introduced with a number of goals in mind. These included providing more power over expenditure and increasing credit supply to sub-state units, encouraging regional economic liberalisation, and increasing popular participation, governmental responsiveness and thereby efficiency.(94) Law 22 devolves power away from the centre over all spheres except defence, foreign affairs, monetary and fiscal policy, justice, religion and certain other areas of economic policy.(95) Those matters most efficiently dealt with at the provincial or district level such as sewerage, education, health services are to be devolved to that level. This devolution is intended to allow local governments to have more control over policy and provide a far greater awareness among the population that the government has their own welfare at heart. Law 25 provides the provinces with a far greater share of the natural resource revenue generated by them, a policy aimed largely at discontent in provinces such as Aceh, Irian Jaya, Riau and East Kalimantan.(96) The process of decentralisation has therefore been seen as a means of decreasing existing sources of conflict in the regions, the existence of separatist sentiment and therefore the possibility of national disintegration.

There have been a number of problems associated with these laws however, primarily concerned with the speed with which they have been implemented and the level of government to which power is to be devolved. It is widely agreed that successful decentralisation requires the establishment of a consensus regarding a framework for implementation, the clarification of the distinct goals of the process, a program of education regarding the process for all those affected by it, and institutionalised bodies for implementation. Unfortunately prior to the enactment of the laws in 1999 and preceding their coming into effect on 1 January 2001, none of these steps were fully undertaken.(97) This has had the effect of creating a lack of coordination between the central government and the other levels of government in various areas, notably on the raising of revenue. This lack of planning also increases the risk of decentralisation actually exacerbating the unstable political situation in some areas, thereby increasing the likelihood of conflict. The other major problem associated with the implementation of decentralisation is that the two laws have generally been unclear regarding the level to which power is being devolved, using the term daerah to refer to both provinces and the sub-provincial level of district. The passing of power directly to the 336 districts or regencies while ostensibly to increase accountability, may serve to aggravate conflict between those districts disadvantaged by high populations and low resource bases, and those more advantaged by the new system.(98)

Those provinces that provide strong resistance against Indonesian rule have been offered a more radical form of 'special autonomy'. As discussed in Section 1, Jakarta has offered both Aceh and Irian Jaya far more control over their own government than the other provinces and districts affected by decentralisation. The intended granting of 'special autonomy' to Aceh and Irian Jaya has also run into difficulties however. Neither package has been presented and implemented in a coherent manner. Both appeared to have struck difficulties in passing through parliament, although one bill was passed regarding future profit sharing in Aceh.(99) The offers of special autonomy have not reduced conflict in either case, as they have often been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent by security forces. Section 1 has shown that revenue is only one of a number of grievances held by the people of such provinces toward Jakarta.(100) The problems associated with the implementation of decentralisation and special autonomy discussed here, if not resolved, may serve to further undermine legitimate political authority and increase instability, thereby creating further calls for a reassertion of military control of the regions.

To a large extent therefore, despite the processes of democratisation and decentralisation, many of the structural factors that have led to increasing tension in a number of provinces in Indonesia still exist. The governments of B. J. Habibie and Abdurrahman Wahid have attempted to address at least some of the underlying causes of tension in the provinces. Offers of 'special autonomy' to Aceh and Irian Jaya have been accompanied by the attempted reform of the security forces. However, President Wahid's attempted non-coercive approach to the regions has been severely undermined by a number of factors. These include, opposition from a number of politicians and military leaders, but also the ad hoc nature of many policy shifts and a lack of organisation regarding the process of decentralisation as discussed above.(101) Promises of bringing to trial TNI officers accused of human rights abuses in the regions have not eventuated in any meaningful way.

Section 2-Possible Strategies Under a Megawati Administration

Jakarta has recently been embroiled in a serious political crisis. Following a number of censures regarding charges of corruption and allegations of ineffectual management, the House of Representatives recently voted overwhelmingly for the Peoples Consultative Assembly (MPR) to hold a special session in order to impeach the president on 1 August. Following President Wahid's appointment of a new acting Police Chief, Chaeruddin Ismail, without approval from the House of Representatives, this special session was brought forward to 23 July. In that special session, the MPR voted unanimously to withdraw Wahid's mandate, and elect Megawati as president.

Megawati's tendency to remain silent amidst the political turmoil surrounding her, makes difficult any speculation on her possible approach to Indonesia's separatist and communal conflicts. A number of statements and actions by the vice president do however, suggest a possibly more vigorous and aggressive approach to the conflicts, especially those seen as directly threatening Indonesian sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Megawati has undertaken a process of accommodation with key figures in the military.(102) She recently attended a military parade in the city of Bandung, donned army fatigues and rode on top of a Scorpion tank.(103) Megawati has also made clear that a primary goal of her administration would be to ensure Indonesia's territorial integrity. On 21 May 2001 she spoke to a military think tank arguing that Indonesia is at risk of breaking up and becoming the 'sickest man in Asia' if its problems are not dealt with.(104) Regarding the granting of autonomy to the provinces, Megawati has recently stated her objection to the erratic and unorganised implementation of the decentralisation process. Although it is unlikely the process could be stopped at this late stage, Megawati is likely to ensure Jakarta retains some control of such matters as taxation at the district level. However, at a Ministry of Home Affairs workshop, she reiterated that Indonesia is a unitary state and that it will never acknowledge small 'states' within the country.(105) Her approach toward the 'special autonomy' legislation for Aceh and Irian Jaya currently being debated in parliament is therefore likely to be far more cautious than that of Wahid. The secession of any province is likely to be strongly opposed by Megawati, just as she (and her Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, PDI-P) opposed the referendum on autonomy (and effectively independence) for East Timor, although the party did subsequently recognise the results of the Timorese ballot in the unanimous vote of the MPR on 19 October 1999.(106)

It may therefore be suggested that Megawati's respect for and reliance upon the military, along with her apparent nationalistic tendencies, could lead to a harsher response to those conflicts that threaten national unity. While Megawati's past opposition to President Soeharto would suggest that she will not resurrect the authoritarian style of that leader too closely nor allow the military total freedom, she is likely to promote a more conservative form of nationalism than Wahid.(107) TNI leaders believe attempted political solutions to the Aceh conflict have failed and the security forces must be allowed to disarm the GAM and quash the rebellion,(108) and Megawati, while vice president, pressured Wahid to give a presidential instruction for a military operation in the province.(109) As stated however, this is not to suggest that she will allow the TNI to act in an uncontrolled manner in the provinces.

It is difficult to ascertain what President Soekarnoputri's approach to those conflicts involving inter-communal violence is likely to be. However Megawati recently argued that many of the communal conflicts throughout the archipelago are due to the low morale of the military, with certain parties exploiting that sentiment in creating conflict.(110) This would suggest that such issues as indigenous rights and compensation for land confiscation and environmental degradation will not be a priority. Some analysts have argued that her record with regard to Maluku as Wahid's appointee to investigate and solve the crisis was not impressive, travelling overseas as the violence continued.(111) However, it must be said, the government's inability to halt the violence reflected far deeper factors than the ability of Megawati.

However, a number of observers of Indonesian politics suggest these pessimistic predictions of the likely character of Megawati's presidency may be a little premature. Pointing to her past political opposition in the face of an increasingly corrupt and repressive President Soeharto and her recent desire to avoid inflaming tension between PDI-P and NU (Nahdlatul Ulama, the Islamic body formerly headed by Wahid) supporters over Wahid's removal from office, a number of analysts suggest she may not be as beholden to status quo elements as often thought, nor allow the military a free hand in such places as Aceh and Irian Jaya.(112) Analysts also point to the far greater support she enjoys both in parliament and in the wider population, along with the broad coalition she has managed to build and lead as evidence that she will have a greater capacity than Wahid to undertake and implement difficult policy choices. It remains to be seen which predictions (if any) prove correct.

The Implications of a Return to Suppression 

It is the argument of this paper that the preceding discussion of the causes and subsequent development of many of the conflicts in Indonesia suggests that a more conservative, 'security-focused' approach, if pursued, will have a number of detrimental consequences. These consequences can be divided into three categories. A hard line approach to separatist movements and the grievances associated with the communal conflicts discussed would serve to increase support for 'nationalistic' movements. The second likely consequence would be that the underlying grievances associated with these conflicts are likely to be neglected, thereby merely suppressing them until such time as they resurface. The third consequence of such a response is that it would be likely to increase international (governmental and societal) support for the victims of human rights abuse.

The direct consequences of increased military occupation in the provinces have been pointed to by the military themselves. The head of the elite Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad), in discussing a possible military operation in Aceh, stated that the TNI should not be held responsible for the large numbers of deaths likely to result.(113) As has been seen from the discussion of Aceh and Irian Jaya, the human rights abuses associated with the security solution taken towards the independence struggles in those provinces has increased public support for those struggles. The military operations of the 1990s in Aceh are widely agreed to be responsible for the growth of support for GAM.(114) The Indonesian Human Rights Commission has recently stated in a report on Irian Jaya that police and military suppression were also largely to blame for the resurgence of the Papuan independence movement.(115) Resistance by militant factions of separatist movements also serves to provide a powerful symbol of nationalism for the rest of society, as in the case of Falantil in East Timor. It is therefore likely that further military suppression of such conflicts will not eradicate but lengthen them. As the experience of the past decades shows, conflicts once escalated are also very difficult to de-escalate.(116)

A security-based solution designed to maintain Indonesian territorial integrity or to prevent inter-communal violence through forceful means will not address the underlying grievances associated with that violence and therefore will not provide a sustainable peace. The conflict is likely to resurface again in a future period of instability. The International Crisis Group (ICG) recently argued that if Indonesia was to disintegrate it would be from an 'inability or unwillingness to meet the aspirations of a large and diverse population'.(117) In none of the four conflicts discussed here have the underlying grievances associated with the violence been adequately addressed. It is for this reason that violence continues in each region.

An overly vigorous security solution to internal conflict is also likely to be condemned by the 'international community'. Prevailing norms regarding human rights and conditional sovereignty mean those states vulnerable to international criticism and sanction may not suppress minorities with impunity.(118) Current international reluctance to see another province secede from Indonesia may decrease with more extensive and visible human rights violations. The pressure exerted on state governments is also strengthened by the potential and real linking of Western standards of human rights to economic practices.(119)

It is therefore argued that a security or military solution to internal conflict that is the result of real grievances and identity issues, while possibly regaining control of the situation, is likely to be counterproductive in terms of resolving the conflict and ensuring territorial integrity. The next section therefore discusses some possible non-military solutions to each of the four cases addressed in this paper.

Section 3-Possible Avenues for Peaceful Resolution

In prescribing solutions to internal conflict, it must be recognised that at the current time, the Indonesian Government faces a large number of factors that further hinder the resolution of what are already extremely complex conflicts. Resolution of internal conflicts often appears impossible in 'developed' and stable states as the cases of Northern Ireland and the Basque region of Spain show, and it must be recognised that this difficulty is increased in the situation of states going through a transitional stage of political and economic change and associated instability. While the most immediate factors hindering effective policy implementation are the issues associated with regime change in Jakarta, stagnation and a lack of reform in a number of other areas (such as the legal system) also make resolution of internal difficulties more problematic. Indonesia also continues to suffer a number of severe effects of the economic crisis, including a falling rupiah, rising inflation and interest rates, and pressure from the IMF and World Bank regarding economic reform.

While it seems possible that Megawati, as president, will seek a security-based solution to Indonesia's current internal conflicts (particularly those in Aceh and Irian Jaya), the broader support she enjoys as compared to Abdurrahman Wahid, also offers a far greater capacity for alternative approaches to these conflicts. Given the multi-layered character of the conflicts discussed here, any approach to their sustainable resolution should be comprehensive. Successful conflict resolution in the case of Indonesia's disenchanted provinces should therefore contain economic, political, identity and security elements.

a) Aceh

The full and meaningful implementation of autonomy is likely to be the most successful means of ensuring full Acehnese acceptance of the legitimacy of their incorporation within the Indonesian state.(120) While the offers of autonomy associated with the decentralisation process discussed above and even the more radical offers made more recently by President Wahid have failed to appease the Acehnese independence movement, it is the argument of this paper that such offers alone are unlikely to assuage such sentiments. In order to undermine support for militant factions of the independence movement, Jakarta needs to accompany offers of autonomy with sincere and meaningful steps taken toward addressing the grievances that drive that support. The granting of self-determination does not have to be associated with state sovereignty, but rather with reconstruction, the protection of human rights, and self-government.(121) All separatist movements require a nationalistic mobilising ideology. The task of a central government faced with such a movement is to address the grievances that provide an environment conducive to that ideology.

In any settlement of the Aceh problem therefore, the government needs to win back the trust and goodwill of the majority of the Acehnese people. The best way to achieve this is for the Indonesian Government to somehow demonstrate to the Acehnese that it is sincere in its desire to address decades of Acehnese grievances.(122) Any settlement must therefore have at its heart a cessation of human rights abuses, and investigation of past abuses.(123) The chairman of Indonesia's Sejahtera labour union, Muchtar Pakpahan, has argued that as the 'deep wounds in the hearts of the people of Aceh' are due to years of military oppression, the best way to heal those wounds is to 'uphold the law and bring them (the perpetrators of violence) to court'.(124) Just as it took a long time to fully lose the hearts and minds of the majority of Acehnese, this process is likely to take a long period of time.

Other groups within Acehnese society will require redress in various spheres. Those concerned with economic exploitation and marginalisation demand a greater proportion of provincial revenue and the right to trade directly with the international market, especially Malaysia. Funds from aid programs and increases in revenue from trade must be appropriately distributed to all sections of Acehnese society rather than just to a handful of elites. While most Muslims practise Islamic law in the province already, the declaration of Sharia Law would appease those factions concerned primarily with religion.(125) To some extent the situation in Aceh is more easily resolved than that in Irian Jaya due to the past positive identification of the Acehnese with the independent unitary Indonesian state.

b) Irian Jaya

With the presentation of a draft bill on autonomy to the Indonesian Peoples Representative Council (DPR) by the Papuan People's Assembly (MRP) and the Papuan People's Representatives (DPRP), there presently exists a window of opportunity to resolve the separatist struggle through non-military means. The draft bill was presented to President Wahid and DPR Speaker Akbar Tandjung, and proposes a wide range of measures, which if agreed upon, could provide enough support for a cessation of calls for independence. These proposals include a high level of Papuan political representation and the placement of a Papuan as provincial governor, the establishment of a local police force, and MRP and DPRP control over the withdrawal and deployment of troops in the province.(126) Under the proposed legislation, 80 per cent of provincial revenue would remain in the province, with 20 per cent going to Jakarta, representing for the province a rise in annual income from 2.8 trillion Indonesian Rupiah to between 12 and 16 trillion Rupiah (US$1.5 billion).(127)

However, given previous experience with offers from Jakarta, many Papuans are extremely sceptical about accepting even this fairly radical proposal of autonomy.(128) Widespread concessions such as those outlined in the proposed legislation combined with a process of demilitarisation and meaningful addressing of human rights violations, including bringing military officers to trial, and compensation for the removal of customary land title, would initiate over a period of time a growing sense of trust and goodwill toward the Indonesian authorities. These measures must also be accompanied by official recognition in education and other arenas, of the ethnic, linguistic and religious differences of the Papuan people from the majority of Indonesians.(129)

Conversely, Indonesian suppression of flag raising ceremonies and other pro-independence demonstrations, or even just a failure to make concessions, provides the OPM and the militant independence movement with further legitimacy in Papuan society. If Jakarta rejects the current proposal of autonomy, the independence movement may be strengthened. With military suppression of peaceful political demonstrations, the more militant option may increasingly be perceived as the only feasible option.(130) The 'Governor's Draft' proposal for regional autonomy (presented by Papuan leaders to Jakarta) requires major sacrifices on the part of the central government.(131) However these sacrifices appear likely to provide an opportunity for the maintenance of current Indonesian territorial integrity, whereas there are no guarantees that a security-based solution will do so. DPR Speaker Akbar Tandjung has recently stated the parliament will consider the proposed legislation.

c) Maluku

The first phase of a resolution of the Maluku crisis would involve securing all communities from the threat of further violence.(132) In Maluku, the process of ensuring the security of potential victims of the conflict would initially involve two courses of action. The first requirement is to control the security forces, fully ensuring troops are uninvolved, impartial and capable of responding to attacks on communities. The TNI has shown an (even greater) inability to deal effectively with inter-communal conflicts as opposed to internal threats to security such as separatist struggles.(133) Training and organisation is required in this aspect of the security forces role, including the use of non-violent means of crowd control. To re-establish popular trust in the security forces and therefore lessen fears held by communities thereby reducing the likelihood of conflict, those troops involved in rights violations should be brought to trial. The second security related requirement is to fully remove the non-Malukan members of Laskar Jihad from the region, and to try those members accused of rights violations.(134) A meaningful resolution of the crisis in Maluku is likely to be impossible with the presence of Javanese (or Java-derived) militias in the province.

The second phase of any program of resolution of the Maluku conflict, it may be argued, should involve an assessment of the socio-economic, political and psycho-cultural tensions that resulted in violence. The economic and political reform undertaken in the republic since 1998 must be continued in Maluku with the eradication of pervasive lines of patronage that rely upon corruption, collusion and nepotism. Strict monitoring of vested interests from Maluku to Jakarta would ensure competition for political and economic resources does not facilitate violence. The economic rivalries and grievances that led to the violence must be addressed and a possible legislative protection of group economic rights introduced.

The main strategy for the long term preclusion of violent conflict should be the re-establishment of local institutions that will serve to resolve disputes impartially and peacefully, and to resolve conflict once it has begun. Given the region's history of inter-communal coexistence through the system of pela gandong discussed above, a reassessment of this form of community based hierarchy would be a valid starting point.

Traditional systems of village hierarchies such as the pela gandong system may be accompanied by other strategies designed to facilitate peaceful ethnic relations. One prescription for peaceful ethnic relations is electoral reform. One option within a democratic political system is the 'consociational' approach to conflict management.(135) In such a political system, proportional representation ensures all groups are represented in government. In addition, the representatives of each community possess a veto over decisions made that affect only that community. Such a system in the long term may ensure peaceful resolution of disputes as both Malukan Christian and Muslim groups would participate in political decision making. However given the tendency of such a system to increase the importance of exclusive identities in politics, another more 'integrative' approach designed to depoliticise the identities of Christian and Muslim may be more suited to the Maluku situation. An integrative approach to conflict management ensures political representatives are required to obtain support from elements of both or all communities, thereby necessitating more moderate rhetoric and policies.(136) This is not merely an argument for liberal democracy, but the parallels between this possible form of conflict management and the traditional system of pela gandong may make an integrative approach at least suitable as a long term approach to the Maluku conflict.

d) Kalimantan

The Indonesian government needs to address the primary cause of the violence in Kalimantan, that is, the continuing marginalisation of Dayak communities.(137) Just as the source of the conflict lies in the effects of a failure on the part of national and local governments to recognise the indigenous rights of Dayaks, so the solution to Dayak violence will lie in meaningful compensation for the confiscation of land, environmental degradation and economic exclusion.

Dayak communities want meaningful control over their own social, economic and political environments.(138) Human Rights Watch recommended after the 1997 violence in West Kalimantan, that Indonesia should become party to the ILO Convention No. 169 that states that indigenous peoples should have the right 'to decide their own priorities for the process of development as it affects their lives, beliefs, institutions, spiritual well-being, and the lands they occupy or otherwise use.(139) Such indigenous rights can be protected through legislation. Dr George Aditjondro of the University of Newcastle argues for the need for visits to Central Kalimantan by anthropologists and ecologists to identify the possibilities for a more sustainable peace within the republic.(140)

A full resettlement of Madurese refugees may not however be possible. Don Greenlees quotes a number of Indonesian experts on the Kalimantan situation as stating that the negative perceptions held by Dayaks of Madurese are probably too strong for reconciliation.(141) Dr John Walker of the Australian Defence Force Academy argues that a substantial resettlement of Madurese inhabitants is probably not feasible due to the very low likelihood that the Madurese will be willing to reconcile themselves with the Dayaks and not seek retribution.(142) Meaningful attempts to address Dayak socio-economic grievances will be likely to greatly lessen Dayak resort to violence.

Section 4-Implications for Australia

The sustainable resolution by Jakarta of Indonesia's various internal conflicts is of primary importance to Australia and the region. An Indonesia struggling to overcome the many problems associated with a period of transition profoundly affects Australian security and economic interests. In the interests of a stable, peaceful and prosperous Indonesia, the conflicts such as those discussed in this paper must be resolved in order to increase economic growth, attract foreign investment and provide requisite levels of human security and welfare. As has also been discussed, the humanitarian crisis associated with a partial or total fragmentation of the republic (an eventuality probably unlikely in the near or medium term) would be severe. Refugee flows, demonstration effects (motivating other independence movements) and/or the creation of unstable new states in the region would also be detrimental to Southeast Asian stability. Even partial fragmentation of Indonesia might also be likely to strengthen anti-Australian sentiment within the TNI and other sections of the Indonesian political elite and society.

For these and other reasons both the Australian Government and the Opposition have strongly stated their support for Indonesian territorial integrity. While expressing a desire to see human rights standards upheld, Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer have reiterated Australian recognition of Indonesian sovereignty over Irian Jaya and the rest of the archipelago.(143) In December 2000, Mr Downer stated 'without exception that the break-off of parts of Indonesia, including Irian Jaya, would be a strategic disaster for Indonesia's neighbours, including Australia'.(144) Opposition Leader Kim Beazley reiterated Labor's support for this policy, stating in July 2001 that 'for our part, Australia is clear in acknowledging Indonesia's territorial sovereignty'.(145) It is possible, however, that bipartisan support for this policy may be placed under pressure if the human rights situation in Indonesia's outlying provinces deteriorates. It has therefore been the argument of this paper that while Australian influence over Indonesian politics is limited, Australia should support the creation of legitimate Indonesian rule in all areas of the Indonesian archipelago.

This paper argues that it is constructive for the Australian Government to reiterate Australian support for Indonesian territorial integrity, while stating a desire to see a peaceful resolution of the current internal conflicts. Australian support for the granting of meaningful autonomy to Aceh and Irian Jaya, along with other non-military approaches to conflict resolution to communal conflict in Maluku and Kalimantan, has been and should be presented as non-threatening to Indonesia by being accompanied by strong support for Indonesian territorial integrity. Australia should therefore emphasise concern with refugee flows and other regional security issues.(146) This paper also supports the assertion by the Australian Government that in addition to being the most ethically desirable approach, the peaceful and sustainable resolution of internal conflicts is actually the most effective way of maintaining Indonesian territorial integrity and sovereignty. Mr Downer stated in July 2001 that 'Indonesia is going to make life very, very difficult for itself, including in the international community, if there are human rights violations by TNI in various provinces in Indonesia, including Aceh and Irian Jaya'.(147)

Dialogue between Australian and Indonesian officials regarding effective and appropriate means of maintaining Indonesian territorial integrity would be possible within a multilateral organisation such as the West Pacific Forum proposed by President Wahid in early 2000. The creation of this forum which would potentially involve Australia, Indonesia, East Timor, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Brunei was further discussed at an Australia-Indonesia Ministerial Forum in December and more recently during President Wahid's visit to Australia in June 2001.(148) Such considerations of the effect of different approaches to internal conflict should be taken into account as Australia considers other practical policy options regarding Indonesia, including the resumption of close military ties.


In discussing the causes and development of four conflicts in Indonesia, this paper has argued that it is possible to differentiate between the goals of those involved in conflict and the grievances that have led to those goals. In two of the cases discussed here, Aceh and Irian Jaya, economic, social and political grievances have led to an independence struggle. In one, Kalimantan, the marginalisation of the indigenous population and a society characterised by a lack of 'civil' institutions independent of the state that was exacerbated by ethnic differences has led to substantial 'ethnic cleansing'. In another, Maluku, competition for economic and political resources between groups defining themselves as either Christian or Muslim, against a background of disappearing traditional structures, has led to violence that inevitably assumed a 'confessional' character.

This paper has argued that the goal of a peaceful, stable and prosperous Indonesia, a goal that is supported by Australia and the 'international community', is more likely to be achieved by addressing the initial grievances held by combatants rather than the end goals of those involved in conflict. A security-based solution to these conflicts has not in the past provided a lasting solution to them, and in some cases has intensified them. This paper has therefore also argued that the process of reformasi with regard to the conflicts in the regions, begun under President B. J. Habibie and continued under President Wahid, is the best way to ensure a platform for a stable Indonesia. The broad support Megawati Soekarnoputri is likely to enjoy as president may offer an even greater capacity for alternative approaches to these conflicts, such as those discussed here.


  1. D. Djalal, 'Strangers in Our Own Land', Far Eastern Economic Review, 18 January 2001.

  2. It is generally considered that the disintegration of Indonesia is not an immediate or long-term prospect. Disintegration is considered unlikely due to the small number of outright independence movements throughout the archipelago. However the likelihood of Indonesia following the familiar Post Cold War path of disintegration should one or all of the secessionist movements succeed is the subject of extensive debate. See for example, H. Crouch, 'Why Indonesia wont fall apart', The Age, 22 July 2000, and R. Cribb, 'Not the Next Yugoslavia: Prospects for the Disintegration of Indonesia', Australian Journal of International Affairs, vol. 53, no. 2, 1999.

  3. Indonesia has now had five presidents since independence in 1949: Soekarno from 1949 until 1965, Soeharto from 1965 until May 1998, Habibie from May 1998 until October 1999, Wahid from October 1999 until July 2001, and Soekarnoputri from July 2001 until present.

  4. For a detailed discussion of the process see 'It's Mega's moment', The Jakarta Post, 24 July, 2001.

  5. J. A. C. Mackie, 'Integrating and centrifugal factors in Indonesian politics since 1954', in J. A. C. Mackie, ed., Indonesia: The Making of a Nation, Research School of Pacific Studies, 1980.

  6. M. Nawawi, 'Regions and National Development under the New Order', in Indonesian politics since 1954, in J. A. C. Mackie, ed., Indonesia: The Making of a Nation, Research School of Pacific Studies, 1980.

  7. L. Niksch, 'Indonesian Separatist Movement in Aceh', Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, January 2001.

  8. H. J. Benda, 'Southeast Asian Islam in the Twentieth Century', in P. M. Holt, et al., eds, The Cambridge History of Islam, vol. 2A, Cambridge University Press, 1970, p. 1188.

  9. D. F. Anwar, 'Indonesia: Domestic Priorities Define National Security', in M. Alagappa, ed., Asian Security Practice, Stanford University Press, 1998, p. 493.

  10. E. Aspinall, 'Whither Aceh?: An update on events in 1999', in Inside Indonesia, April-June 2000, p. 6.

  11. See D. Brown, The state and ethnic politics in Southeast Asia, Routledge, 1994, and S. Tiwon, 'From heroes to rebels', in Inside Indonesia, April-June 2000, p. 5.

  12. 40.32 per cent of a total of 5643 villages are adjudged as below the poverty line.

  13. S. Tiwon, op. cit., p. 5.

  14. ibid.

  15. S. Tiwon, 'From East Timor to Aceh: The Disintegration of Indonesia', Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, vol. 32, nos 1 and 2, 2000, p. 98.

  16. loc. cit.

  17. D. Brown, op. cit., p. 148.

  18. R. Gunaratna, 'The structure and nature of GAM', Jane's Intelligence Review, April 2000, p. 34.

  19. In April 1998, villagers from the Babahrot reoccupied lands taken from them by an oil palm plantation and 22 people were arrested. When the villagers protested this response by tearing down fences at the police station, police opened fire and five were injured, S. Tiwon, 'From East Timor to Aceh: The Disintegration of Indonesia', op. cit., p. 99.

  20. L. McCulloch, 'Security Solution', in World Today, March 2001, p. 22.

  21. P. Flynn, 'Indonesian Islamic Fundamentalism and Aceh in the Twentieth Century', Australian Defence Force Journal, 141, March-April 2000.

  22. GAM is today a guerilla style force of around 800 to 2000 with substantial popular support from a wide range of societal groups. E. Aspinall, 'Whither Aceh?: An update on events in 1999', in Inside Indonesia, April-June 2000, p. 7.

  23. Islam was introduced into Aceh by traders from the Middle East in the 13th Century, P. Sulistiyanto, 'Whither Aceh?', Third World Quarterly, vol. 22, no. 3, p. 438.

  24. P. Flynn, 'Indonesian Islamic Fundamentalism and Aceh in the Twentieth Century', Australian Defence Force Journal, 141, March-April 2000, p. 33.

  25. L. Niksch, op. cit.

  26. L. McCulloch, 'Security Solution', in World Today, March 2001, p. 22.

  27. 'Aceh: Can autonomy stem the conflict?', International Crisis Group Asia Report, no. 18, 2001.

  28. L. Murdoch, 'Children among victims of assault on separatists', The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 June, 2001.

  29. 'Military push for attack on Aceh', Sydney Morning Herald, 6 April 2001.

  30. The TNI obtains major economic benefits from providing security for commercial interests vulnerable to the conflict. The political importance of TNI is also reaffirmed by continuing conflict. ICG (the political analysis organisation headed in Brussels by Gareth Evans) considers this interest in continuing instability may explain the launching of security operations every time the president seeks a political solution to the conflict. 'Aceh: Why Military Force Won't Bring Lasting Peace', International Crisis Group Report, no. 17, 12 June 2001.

  31. An Acehnese newspaper poll suggested 80 per cent of Acehnese (along with 76 per cent of non-Acehnese) were dissatisfied with the failure to prosecute offenders, ibid., p. 27.

  32. ibid., p. 4.

  33. D. Murphy, 'Aceh civilians caught in middle', The Christian Science Monitor, 29 January-4 February, 2001.

  34. L. McCulloch, 'Security Solution', op. cit., 22.

  35. 'Army promises to get tough in Aceh', in Sydney Morning Herald, 24 April 2001.

  36. D. Murphy, op. cit.

  37. 'Fresh bout of violence kills 10 in restive Aceh', The Jakarta Post, May 27 2001.

  38. L. Murdoch, 'Children among victims of assault on separatists', op. cit.

  39. Contrary to reports of an approximate 50 per cent to 50 per cent demographic split between Papuans and non-Papuans, the 1995 Census figures calculate Papuans still constitute 85.9 per cent of the Irian Jaya population. These figures were provided to me by Dr Chris Manning, Head, Indonesia Project, Economics Division, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, ANU.

  40. It is also the case that many transmigrasi find themselves disadvantaged by their resettlement.

  41. More recently, the arrival of refugees from the Maluku conflict has provoked strong resistance in some areas of Irian Jaya, many Papuans concerned that some groups amongst the refugees may foment conflict in the province.

  42. See C. Ballard, 'Negotiating a Future', RSPAS Quarterly Bulletin, vol. 1, no. 3.

  43. A. Abrash, 'Papua: Another East Timor?', Foreign Policy In Focus, vol. 5, no. 37, October 2000.

  44. C. Ballard, op. cit., p. 10.

  45. ibid.

  46. An NGO established for the support for Papuan rights.

  47. 'Raising the Morning Star', Pacific News Bulletin, December 1999, p. 4.

  48. 'West Papua faces independence fight alone', Pacific News Bulletin, February 2000.

  49. 'Indonesia: Human Rights and Pro-Independence Actions in Papua, 1999-2000, Human Rights Watch Report, vol. 12, no. 2, 2000.

  50. J. Rumbiak, Letter to UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Mary Robinson, 5 April 2000. During the Soeharto era, protest against the deprivation associated with the Freeport mine was responded to with Indonesian aircraft fire on villages, C. Ballard, op. cit., p. 10.

  51. M. Mietzner, 'Personal triumph and political turmoil: Abdurrahman Wahid and Indonesia's struggle for reform', in D. Kingsbury, ed., The presidency of Abdurrahman Wahid: an assessment after the first year', Annual Indonesia Lecture Series, no. 23, 2001.

  52. 'Constitution won't change, says Wahid', The Canberra Times, 3 April 2001.

  53. R. Callick, 'Irian Jaya dismisses offer', Financial Review, 20 February 2001.

  54. The issue of Irian Jaya is different in a number of ways to that of East Timor, most notably that Indonesian sovereignty over the former has long been recognised in international law, see J. Verrier, 'Is West Papua Another Timor?', Current Issues Brief, no. 1, Department of the Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2000.

  55. 'On trial in Papua', The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 May 2001.

  56. T. Dodd, 'Downer: Irian Jaya independence risky', Australian Financial Review, 13 December 2000.

  57. L. Murdoch, 'Brutal religious war leaves a paradise soaked in blood', The Sydney Morning Herald, 27 January 2001.

  58. 'Indonesia's Maluku Crisis: The Issues', International Crisis Group, 19 July 2000, p. 4. The religious nature of the conflict seems confirmed by the reported forced conversion of hundreds of Christians to Islam, a process often involving forced circumcision see L. Murdoch, 'Conversion crusade rends Spice Islands', Age, 27 January 2001.

  59. R. Chauvel, 'Ambon: Not a Revolution But a Counterrevolution', in A. R. Kahin, ed., Regional Dynamics of the Indonesian Revolution: Unity From Diversity, University of Hawaii Press, 1985.

  60. 'Indonesia: Overcoming Murder and Chaos in Maluku', International Crisis Group Report, no. 10, 19 December 2000, p. 2.

  61. 'The seeds of discontent in the beautiful Maluku islands', The Jakarta Post, 20 July 2000.

  62. 'Indonesia: The violence in Ambon', Human Rights Watch Report, March 1999.

  63. 'Indonesia: Overcoming Murder and Chaos in Maluku', International Crisis Group Report no. 10, 19 December 2000, p. 3.

  64. G. Van Klinken, 'What caused the Ambon violence?', Inside Indonesia, no. 60, October-December 1999.

  65. ibid.

  66. 'Indonesia: Overcoming Murder and Chaos in Maluku', International Crisis Group Report, no. 10, 19 December 2000. The Jakarta Post reports 8 000 casualties and 230 000 refugees, 'Maluku will remain part of RI: Leaders' The Jakarta Post, 15 March 2001.

  67. 'Indonesia: Overcoming Murder and Chaos in Maluku', International Crisis Group Report, no 10, 19 December 2000. The city of Ambon has been profoundly affected by the conflict. Along with infrastructural damage, the city's population has declined from 314 400 before the conflict to a population of 265 000. The city's revenue has declined from US$569 842 in 1998 to only US$26 839, 'Foreign envoys visit Ambon for firsthand information', The Jakarta Post, 21 February 2001.

  68. While not wholly substantiated, there are a number of theories regarding the role of the military in the conflict. Some observers suggest the military and other factions connected to President Soeharto's old party Golkar have instigated or at least inflamed the conflict in order to undermine President Wahid and reinforce the need for the TNI.

  69. 'Indonesia: Overcoming Murder and Chaos in Maluku', International Crisis Group Report, no. 10, 19 December 2000, p. 10.

  70. 'Maluku residents don't need help from outsiders', The Jakarta Post, 16 March 2001.

  71. 'Eight die in Ambon violence', The Jakarta Post, 22 May 2001.

  72. It is important to note however that 'Dayaks' comprise numerous subgroups different in dialect and social structure, therefore generalising about the conflict on ethnic grounds is difficult.

  73. Under President Soeharto, financial and political supporters of himself and Golkar such as Bob Hasan, were often allowed exclusive rights to forestry and other contracts, effectively disempowering local farmers. For example, Kalimantan rattan farmers were forced to sell their product to Java where Hasan had set up a rattan furniture factory. G. Aditjondro, 'Suharto's Colonial Adventure', in Arena Magazine, April-May 2001.

  74. The land was often cleared by burning, the combustion of forest and peat soil combining to create 'the haze' that spread as far as Singapore and Malaysia. J. L. Fox, 'Environment: Land, Resources and Local Livelihood; Introduction', in C. Manning & P. Van Diermen, eds, Indonesia in Transition: Social Aspects of Reformasi and Crisis, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2000, p. 201-204.

  75. 'Indonesia begins to see wood for trees', The Sydney Morning Herald, 25 February 2000.

  76. 'Indonesia: Kalimantan Consequences', Oxford Analytica Brief, 9 March 2001.

  77. J. Walker, 'In Borneo, the truth is often missing in action', The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 March 2001.

  78. ibid.

  79. Herb Feith quoted in 'Images of injustice in the history of Kalimantan', The Jakarta Post, 5 June 2001.

  80. M. Maher, 'Uncivil unrest', in Bulletin with Newsweek, 13 March 2001.

  81. ibid.

  82. G. Sheridan, 'Troubled nation out of control', The Australian, 1 March 2001.

  83. Herb Feith quoted in 'Images of injustice in the history of Kalimantan', The Jakarta Post, 5 June 2001. Military units are said to have fired on Dayak groups in the 1997 conflict on several occasions, not only on Dayak groups immediately involved in the conflict, but also upon a Dayak demonstration protesting against violence by the Medan Artillery Battery, 'Indonesia: Communal Violence in West Kalimantan', Human Rights Watch, vol. 9, no. 10, December 1997.

  84. Personal conversation with Dr John Walker, University College, Australian Defence Force Academy, 5 June 2001.

  85. ibid.

  86. T. Dodd, 'Death toll hits 421 as Dayaks rip heart out of Madurese settler life', Australian Financial Review, 28 February 2001.

  87. 'Indonesia: Kalimantan Consequences', Oxford Analytica Brief, 9 March 2001.

  88. 'Race attacks flare again on Borneo', The Age, 24 March 2001.

  89. D. Jenkins, 'Kalimantan bloodshed suggests the TNI wants Wahid's head on a platter' Sydney Morning Herald, 28 February 2001.

  90. The impact of authoritarian structures is apparent throughout the Dutch colonial administration as well as the eras of Soekarno and Soeharto. 'Indonesia: Small bureaucracy, big task', Australian Financial Review, 10 May 2001.

  91. B. Lowry, 'Indonesia: tumult and hope', Australia-Pacific Defence Reporter, January 2000.

  92. S. P. Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies, Yale University Press, 1968, p. 24.

  93. This point was made to me by Dr Greg Fealy, RSPAS, Australian National University.

  94. For more detailed discussions of the process of decentralisation see R. H. McLeod, 'Survey of Recent Developments', Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies, vol. 36, no. 2, August 2000. H. Dick, 'Survey of Recent Developments', Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies, vol. 37, no. 1, 2001. R. N. Nombo. 'Regional Autonomy Program in Indonesia: What Issues Complicate Its Implementation?', The Indonesian Quarterly, vol. 28, no. 3, 2000. G. Lloyd, 'Indonesia's Future Prospects: Separatism, Decentralisation and the Survival of the Unitary State', Parliamentary Publication, Current Issues Brief, no. 17, 1999-2000. J. Alm, R. H. Aten, R. Bahl, 'Can Indonesia Decentralise Successfully? Plans, Problems and Prospects', Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies, vol. 37, no. 1, 2001.

  95. op. cit., p. 85.

  96. C. Manning, 'An independent West Papua? Jakarta's New Challenge', Text Box in R. H. McLeod, 'Survey of Recent Developments', Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies, vol. 36, no. 2, August 2000, p. 35.

  97. op. cit., p. 87.

  98. R. H. McLeod, 'Survey of Recent Developments', Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies, vol. 36, no. 2, August 2000, p. 36.

  99. For a discussion of this bill see 'House passes bill granting special autonomy for Aceh' The Jakarta Post, 20 July 2001.

  100. The need for more than the granting of fiscal autonomy with regard to the Papuan case is made in C. Manning, loc. cit.

  101. Wahid had for the last few months been attempting to reform the military, including implementing a new Defence Act which would lessen the TNI's powers over internal security, and to reform the territorial structure of the military. His attempted promotion of a reformist military officer, Lieutenant General Agus Wirahadi-kusumah, was met with opposition from the military and Megawati, see D. Greenlees, 'Sending the army back to barracks', The Australian, 24 February 2001, and M. Maher, 'Uncivil unrest', op. cit.

  102. M. Maher, 'Art of reinvention', in Bulletin with Newsweek, 17 April 2001, T. Dodd, 'The Lady Vanishes', The Australian Financial Review Magazine, May 2001, p. 24.

  103. L. Murdoch, 'Peoples tribune rides a tank, and darker forces, towards power', Sydney Morning Herald, 17 May 2001.

  104. T. Dodd, 'Wahid in about-face on army', Australian Financial Review, 22 May 2001.

  105. 'VP criticizes regional autonomy law', The Jakarta Post, 17 May 2001.

  106. Although much of this opposition was due to the transitional nature of the Habibie regime under which East Timor's process of self-determination was undertaken. See F. Frost and A. Cobb, 'The Future of East Timor: Major Current Issues', Research Paper, no. 21, Department of the Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 1999.

  107. A. Dupont, 'Indonesia's best bet is Megawati', Australian, 8 May 2001.

  108. L. Murdoch, 'Peoples tribune rides a tank', and darker forces, towards power', op. cit.

  109. 'Military push for attack on Aceh', Sydney Morning Herald, 6 April 2001.

  110. 'Megawati blames unrest on morale', The Canberra Times, 30 August 2000.

  111. See 'Changes in Megawati, hopefully for the better', The Jakarta Post, 25 July 2001.

  112. G. Fealy, 'Blinded by the charms of a fanciful president', The Australian, 4 July 2001. On the willingness to rein in her supporters see D. Jenkins, 'In her father's shadow', The Age, 21 July 2001.

  113. 'Military push for attack on Aceh', Sydney Morning Herald, 6 April 2001.

  114. 'Little opposition to Wahid censure', in Canberra Times, 24 April 2001.

  115. 'Jakarta's report blames police violence', in The Financial Review, 19 May 2001.

  116. M. E. Brown, 'The Impact of Government Policies on Ethnic Relations', M. E. Brown & S. Ganguly, eds, Government Policies and Ethnic Relations in Asia and the Pacific, MIT Press, 1997, p. 571. One possibility of a harsher military response to GAM and the Aceh separatist movement is an end to GAM reluctance to use terrorism and violence toward civilians, or the splintering of the independence movement with one faction supporting such methods.

  117. 'Aceh: Why Military Force Won't Bring Lasting Peace', International Crisis Group Report, no. 17, 12 June 2001.

  118. The most obvious and relevant example of this factor is the pressure exerted by members of the international community on Indonesia to allow the people of East Timor an act of self-determination. For an excellent discussion on the issues surrounding the rising importance of human rights see T. Dunne & N. J. Wheeler, eds, Human Rights in Global Politics, Cambridge University press, 1999.

  119. IMF and World Bank loan and aid packages are sometimes dependent on the peaceful resolution of internal conflict.

  120. Self-government has provided solutions to a number of internal conflicts, the most notable case being the granting of autonomy to the regions in Italy.

  121. The goals of the CNRT in East Timor were initially the achievement of self-determination within the Indonesian state, see J. Goodman, 'Post-Cold War Self Determination: Ireland and East Timor', Geopolitics.

  122. B. Lowry, 'Indonesia: tumult and hope', op. cit., p. 19.

  123. E. Aspinall, op. cit., p. 7.

  124. 'Pessimistic response to Wahid's Aceh plan', The Canberra Times, 18 December 2000.

  125. However this proposal may in itself affect the nature of Indonesia as a secular unitary state, by initiating demands on the part of other strong Muslim areas.

  126. 'Papuan proposal seeks wide-ranging autonomy', The Jakarta Post, 24 May, 2001.

  127. ibid.

  128. Seminar given by Dr Richard Chauvel, RSPAS, Australian National University.

  129. C. Manning, 'An independent West Papua? op. cit., p. 35.

  130. Seminar given by Dr Richard Chauvel, RSPAS, Australian National University.

  131. A more intractable problem regarding the implementation of measures designed to find a sustainable solution is that many in Jakarta appear to have interests in the maintenance of the status quo in Irian Jaya. Many with vested interests in the region, especially the military, prefer an unstable Irian Jaya either for use as a political 'football' or due to existing systems of very profitable rent seeking. This point was made to me by Dr Chris Ballard, RSPAS, Australian National University, and is also made in H. Dick, 'Survey of Recent Developments', Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies, vol. 37, no. 1, 2001, p. 34. The same point could be made about all the conflicts discussed here.

  132. A number of analysts argue that 'ethnic' violence is the result of collective fears of the future as groups fear for their safety, inter-communal perceptions worsen and security dilemmas develop as a result, see D. A. Lake & D. Rothchild, 'Containing Fear: the Origins and Management of Ethnic Conflict', International Security, vol. 21, no. 2, Fall 1996, pp. 41-75.

  133. This point was made to me by Dr Richard Chauvel in a personal discussion on 28 May 2001. The Jakarta Post also quotes the State Minister for Administrative Reforms, Ryaas Rasyid as stating the military is not the appropriate mechanism for dealing with communal violence.

  134. 'Indonesia: Overcoming Murder and Chaos in Maluku', International Crisis Group Report, no. 10, 19 December 2000, p. 5.

  135. For a detailed discussion of this approach to ethnic conflict management, see A. Lijphart. Democracy in Plural Societies, Yale University Press, 1977.

  136. M. E. Brown, 'The Impact of Government Policies on Ethnic Relations', op. cit.

  137. This prescription was made following the 1996-97 violence in 'Indonesia: Communal Violence in West Kalimantan', Human Rights Watch Report, December 1997.

  138. Personal communication with Dr John Walker, University College, Australian Defence Force Academy, 5 June 2001.

  139. 'Indonesia: Communal Violence in West Kalimantan', Human Rights Watch Report, December 1997, p. 4.

  140. G. Aditjondro, 'Suharto's Colonial Adventure', op. cit.

  141. 'Borneo's violence comes full circle' Australian, 27 February 2001.

  142. Personal communication with Dr John Walker, University College, Australian Defence Force Academy, 5 June 2001. Unfortunately this resettlement was the very thing recommended by President Wahid, see 'Madurese can return to Kalimantan', The Jakarta Post, 26 June 2001.

  143. P. Hartcher, 'West Papua Shaping as Howard's Next East Timor', Australian Financial Review, 10 June 2000.

  144. 'Editorial: West Papua Bleeding', Sydney Morning Herald, 19 December 2000.

  145. 'Parliamentary Luncheon For President Wahid, President of Indonesia' Australian Labour Party Media Release, 26 June 2001. The Labor Party Foreign Affairs Spokesman, Laurie Brereton, has also stated that 'we believe that territorial integrity is vital and Irian Jaya is part of Indonesia', P. Kelly, 'A man of the world', The Australian, 5 May 2001.

  146. This point was made regarding East Timor following the 1991 Dili massacre in H. Feith, 'East Timor: The Opening up, the Crackdown and the Possibility of a Durable Settlement', in H. Crouch & H. Hill, eds, Indonesia Assessment 1992: Political Perspectives on the 19990's, Department of Political and Social Change, RSPAS, Australian National University, 1992.

  147. M. Barton, 'Downer warns Jakarta', West Australian, 18 July 2001.

  148. M. Forbes & L. Murdoch, 'With a few bumps, Wahid arrives for a historic visit', The Age, 26 June 2001.