Friday, 5 September 2003

Ambon (Fides Service) – Still 200,000 displaced persons, an economy which cannot find its legs, tourism still at the starting line, no public funds for rebuilding infrastructures, roads, schools, hospitals, universities; Christian and Muslim families survive thanks to subsistence farming and fishing. This is the difficult situation described to Fides Service by Bishop Petrus Canisius Mandago of Amboina, in the Moluccas islands in eastern Indonesia, from 1999 to 2001 the scene of ethnic clashes between local Protestants and Muslims.
Years of war, violence and destruction have made the Moluccas one of the poorest provinces in Indonesia and only intervention and measures by the central government in Jakarta can help the economy back on its feet. With this in mind central government delegates recently had a meeting with local authorities, businesses and bankers. The participants agreed that it is time for the state of civil emergency declared in 2000, a year after the beginning of the conflict to be revoked. In May this year the emergency was revoked in northern Moluccas but it is still in force in the province of Moluccas. The archipelago has two administrations to allow capillary control and block paramilitary groups perpetrators of the war.
One major problem, Fides Service was told by the Jesuit Refugee Service in Ambon, is the re-settlement of some 200,000 displaced persons. In fact there are still 39,000 homeless families living in camps which in the beginning were used as many as 350,000. Some 150,000 have been re-settled but the remaining 200,000 are in need of everything and they have no home to return to after their village was raised to the ground in the conflict.
In the meantime the people hope the new governor Karel Ralahalu, who will be sworn in 9 September will revoke the state of emergency quickly, although this will probably not be possible before the new year. PA (Fides Service 5/9/2003 EM lines 32 Words: 367)