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Constitutional Court chief justice Mahfud MD (Kompas/Riza Fathoni)
The Constitution guarantees all citizens the right to choose their place to live, therefore, the government has no right to force them to move to another location, one of the country’s top judges has said.
Constitutional Court chief justice Mahfud MD rejected government’s plan to relocate the Shia community that had become the target of attacks in Sampang, Madura, in East Java.
“People must not be relocated because of differences [in their religious beliefs] as it violates the basic rights set out in the Constitution. People can only be relocated if their residences can’t be occupied because of a natural disaster,” Mahfud told The Jakarta Post during his visit to Medan, North Sumatra, on Saturday.
The chief justice, who grew up in Sampang, said he was very sorry to hear of the attacks against Shia followers in his hometown. He regretted the fact that social harmony in Sampang had been disrupted by religious conflict.
Culturally, Shia and Sunni followers in Sampang were the same, so there was no point in fighting each other, he added. “Humans are born to be compassionate toward each other,” Mahfud said.
According to him, the government must enforce the law and bring perpetrators of the attacks to justice. Aside from that, the government needs to facilitate a meeting between law enforcement, security forces, religious leaders and community leaders to find the best solution.
Separately, human rights advocates have criticized the government for its failure to protect its citizens as shown in the attacks against the Shia community in Sampang, which claimed two lives.
National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) deputy chairman Nurcholis said the fatal attacks showed the government was absent when it should have played a protective role.
“People fled to the mountains and their houses were burned to the ground while the police had no idea what was happening. It shows the government’s failure in protecting its people,” he said in a discussion on Saturday.
Last Sunday, hundreds of Shiites fled their neighborhood in Karang Gayam, Sampang, when anti-Shia mobs attacked the area.
Two Shiites, identified as Muhammad Hasyim and Thohir, died from machete wounds inflicted during the onslaught, while four others were injured.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono previously slammed law enforcement agencies regarding the attack, saying that intelligence officials and the police should have detected the threat.
National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Anang Iskandar said a lack of personnel was one of the reasons the police could not handle the conflict better. “We need more personnel,” he said on Saturday, adding that the area where the Shia community lived was also hard to reach.
Sunday’s incident was the second in recent months. On Dec. 29, 2011, a mob ransacked the village and burned down the house and pesantren (Islamic boarding school) belonging to Tajul Muluk, the leader of the Shia community.
Ironically, the Sampang District Court sentenced Tajul to two years’ imprisonment for blasphemy, while only one perpetrator of the attack was convicted and jailed for less than three months.
Following Sunday’s attack, most school children from the Shia community have yet to return to school due to their parents’ concerns for their safety.
Sumilah, 56, the school principal of SD Karanggayam 4 in Sampang, was seen tidying up a classroom on Saturday as there were few students to be taught. “I have convinced the parents to let their children go to school. Those children should attend classes because they will have to take an exam soon,” she added.
Sumilah, who has taught at the school for 12 years, said that of 178 students, only 30 returned to classes after the incident. (cor)