Jakarta has responded to the anti-Madurese massacres in Central Kalimantan, which have taken between 500 and 2000 lives, with the usual iron-fist approach. After the Indonesian armed forces deployed two battallions from the Strategic Reserve Command (KOSTRAD) to the troubled province, the local police commander issued a ‘shoot-on-sight’ order.
This approach, however, is doomed to fail, for two reasons. First of all, it shows a discriminatory approach in riot control in contrast to the steps usually taken in Jakarta, the capital, where every manoeuvre of the police and army is closely observed by the media, lawyers, and other human rights monitors. Hence, in Jakarta the Police’s Special Brigade (Brimob) are only allowed to ‘shoot-on-sight’ after first using water cannons and tear gas to control riots. So, turning the Kostrad and Brimob troops loose on the Dayak rioters will certainly turn Central Kalimantan into another Maluku, where both troops have sided with civilians with whom they were most primordially linked.
Secondly, this iron-fist approach shows how little Jakarta has understood the extent of distrust and anger of the indigenous people of Kalimantan towards successive national governments in margin alising them on all fronts. Certainly, the massive opening of Kalimantan to foreign and national mining, forestry, and plantation companies, as well as the planned and spontaneous migrants from Java and other islands, have not benefitted the indigenous Dayak people, who have been systematically evicted and alienated from their customary land.
In Central Kalimantan this is especially ironic, since this province was created by the late President Sukarno in May 1957 in response to the aspirations expressed by the Pro Panca Sila Cutlass and Shield Movement (Gerakan Mandau Talawang Pro Panca Sila), which demanded a separate province for the Ngaju-Dayak, separate from the existing province of South Kalimantan. These demands were partly a response to the Darul Islam movement to create an Islamic state, which was widely supported by the Banjarese people who dominated the existing South Kalimantan province. Apart from upholding the state philosophy of Panca Sila, GMTPS also supported a federative structure for Indonesia, rather than the unitarian structure that has been upheld by military force for nearly five decades.
Sukarno responded wisely to these demands by creating a new province, and its brand new capital, Palangkaraya, was established at Pahandut, the village where the Ngaju-Dayak insurrection broke out on 10 November, 1956, with an attack on the police station. As governor of the new province, Sukarno appointed a retired Air Force officer of Dayak descent, Tjilik Riwoet, who had led the Republican forces attack on the Dutch occupation forces in Southern Kalimantan. Palangkaraya’s airport is named after this Dayak national hero.
In contrast to Sukarno, Suharto simply treated Central Kalimantan as Java’s economic colony. He replaced successive Dayak governors with Javanese ones, and awarded timber concessions in the province to his Javanese cronies who invested their wealth back in Java. In 1990, Jakarta banned all export of rattan products from the island, forcing all rattan producers to sell their raw material to Java, where Suharto’s crony, Bob Hasan, had set up a rattan furniture factory in Semarang, Central Java. This policy caused a great famine in Central Kalimantan, where more than 1.5 million hectares of rattan farms supplied 80 per cent of Indonesia’s rattan export.
The last nail in Central Kalimantan’s ecological, economic and cultural coffin was Suharto’s plan to turn one million hectares of peat soil into rice fields for Javanese farmers, a project which also enriched Bob Hasan’s aerial mapping company, PT Mapindo Pratama. Indonesia’s financial crisis, fortunately, forced the government to shelve this mega-project and Bob Hasan has recently been sentenced to two years in jail for his company’s corruption. Yet enough peat soil had been exposed to facilitate the infamous forest fires on the island since 1997, which have further eroded the ecological base of the Ngaju-Dayak’s culture.
Under Suharto, Central Kalimantan became the only province where the Ngaju-Dayak religion, Kaharingan, received an equal official status with Indonesia’s main imported religions. A Kaharingan balian (priest) says prayers at all official events, side by side with other religious leaders, and Palangkaraya is also the seat of the national peak Kaharingan religious body. So, whoever will take over the presidency in Jakarta’ the coming weeks should send more anthropologists and ecologists to the province, to start talking to the old and young Dayak leaders. This policy would be more successful in preventing the Central Kalimantan uprising from turning into an island-wide movement for Dayak self-determination, than unleashing more troops on the locals and giving them a free hand to shoot on sight.
George Aditjondro teaches at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Newcastle.