10 years after Poso conflict,
personnel, issues linger

The Poso conflict in Central Sulawesi ended around 10 years ago, but various groups have met to evaluate peace developments in Poso following the Malino peace treaty, with many issues apparently still unresolved.

With Poso's special status not yet lifted, which required the government to post reinforcements of some 1,600 additional police personnel in the area, there was still an atmosphere of tension, Central Sulawesi Christian Church synod head Rev. Renaldy Damanik said.

The number of Police officers in Poso should be adjusted to meet the needs of the people, Damanik said.

"Members of the public are actually the ones who are protecting themselves, so security is maintained by the people themselves," he said.

It was urgent for the government to reevaluate Poso's special status from various perspectives, by involving every component of the local community, he said.

"To restore Poso's status, all stakeholders, including the government, NGOs and religious leaders, should be involved - and women and children too," Demanik said.

Issues affecting women and children, the group most susceptible to the impacts of conflict, have so far been overlooked, he said, with many lacking access to proper education, health care and economic empowerment programs.

Malino peace treaty declarer Sofyan Farid Lembah shared a similar view, saying many conflict victims, especially women and children, were still deprived of basic facilities.

The government has initiated various programs to resolve the conflict and associated issues, but these had focussed on issues of security and law enforcement, and had not assisted the community in fulfilling their basic rights to a decent living, Sofyan said.

The government had not yet issued a regulation to protect such rights of women and children, despite a law stipulating that special attention needed to be given to susceptible groups in conflict areas, Sofyan said.

Poso Regent Piet Inkiriwang said Poso regency had disbursed Rp 600 million (about US$60,000) this year for the Poso Women's Empowerment Program, which is a higher figure compared to the Rp 300-400 million spent in previous years.

The funds have been used for various activities aimed at encouraging women to play a more active role in society, such as the establishment of the Women's Integrated Services and Empowerment Center (PTPPA) which acts as a forum for female victims of conflict, domestic violence and sexual harassment, as well as school dropouts.

The PTPPA has so far provided training, health care and economic empowerment programs for around 170 women and girls. Its programs aim to assist victims to readjust to society, regain independence and overcome trauma of past experiences.

Poso is now peaceful but recent reports have suggested a number of terror suspects are hiding there. Police have so far listed six suspects in their wanted list.

Police have urged the six suspects - Taufik Bulaga (alias "Upik Lawanga"), Iin ("Brur"), Nanto ("Bojel"), Iwan Asapa ("Ale"), Enal ("Tao") and Hamdara Tamil ("Papa Yus") - to surrender themselves immediately, Central Sulawesi Police chief Brig. Gen. Suparni Parto said.

"I will ensure their safety if they give themselves up," Suparni said.

The police would establish communications with all elements of society, including clerics, in its search for the suspects, he said.

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