Communal clashes in Batam, Riau Islands, and Mesuji, South Sumatra, have claimed two lives and caused injuries to dozens of others.
In Batam, police are still hunting the perpetrators of Monday evening’s clash, while as of midday Tuesday, the atmosphere in Pematangpanggang in Mesuji district remained tense, as some residents were forced to evacuate to Palembang and Bandar Lampung.
Riau Islands Police chief Brig. Gen. Jotje Mende said Tuesday that the leader of one of the two groups involved in the clash had been questioned, while the leader of the other group was still being sought.
“So far, 28 people have been questioned. That number will possibly increase,” Jotje said.
Aside from hunting the perpetrators, the police are also focusing on restoring security by stationing officers at the incident’s site in front of the Planet Holiday Hotel.
“As has been widely reported, each of the two groups supported two rival parties involved in a courtroom dispute over the ownership of a 3.5-hectare-plot of land,” Jotje said, adding that one group supported PT HE and the other, PT LWE.
Flores people, led by Basri CS, support PT HE, while the Bataks, who support PT LWE, were led by Tony Fernandes Pakpanan. The dead victim was identified as Johan Sihombing, 28. Dozens of others injured in the clash have recovered.
Meanwhile, one person was killed and five others injured in a clash on Sunday between residents of Pematangpanggang village, Mesuji district, Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI) in South Sumatra, and a silat martial arts group, called Persaudaraan Setia Hati Terate (PSHT).
The dead victim has been identified as Darmasyah, while those injured were Amin, Saleh, Suari, Mujidin and Deni.
The clash, which erupted on Sunday evening in Surya Adi village, Mesuji district, OKI, has left local residents fearful.
The death of Darmasyah, a member of the martial arts group, sparked anger among his friends. The next day, Monday, thousands of PSHT members launched a retaliatory attack on Pematangpanggang village, occupying it for several hours.
Thousands of PSHT members riding motorcycles and armed with swords, bamboo spears, sickles and homemade firearms converged on Pematangpanggang. Police and military personnel were able to quell the violence but one house was destroyed by PSHT members.
Despite bringing the situation under control, police were forced to evacuate thousands of Pematangpanggang residents. As of Tuesday, many villagers were still afraid to return to their homes. OKI Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Agus Fachtulloh said his force was still investigating the cause of the original clash on Sunday.
“We were at the clash location when the PSHT members were attacked by the villagers. We are still trying to determine the cause of the clash. But, based on information we gathered from eyewitnesses, violence began when both sides started to mock each other,” said Agus on Tuesday.
“I have also clarified information on the number of casualties. The actual number of fatalities was one, not three,” he added.
Dozens of police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) personnel have been put on alert on the border between Lampung and South Sumatra to prevent further clashes.
Hundreds of police personnel from the Lampung and South Sumatra police forces have also been deployed to guard the Trans-Sumatra Highway near Pematangpanggang.
Mesuji was also the site of a recent bloody clash, which claimed several lives, over a land dispute between local residents and security guards belonging to a plantation company.