The Jakarta Post
The government was absent in the Aceh Singkil incident after it failed to accommodate the wave of protests that lead to an incident that claimed one life and caused thousands of people flee their homes after a church was burned down, experts said on Monday.
Fajri Alihar, senior researcher at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), said that the incident was not related to ethnic and religious intolerance.
Fajri said that the interrelations among societies in the regency was harmonious.
"The situation was ruined because the regency administration was absent in handling the waves of protests against the churches they claimed were illegal. Religion is not a source of conflict," Fajri said in a discussion entitled "Understanding Singkil: Politics Demography and the Relations of Ethnicity and Religion" on Monday.
One person died and four were injured after hundreds of people protested and tried to tear down a church on Oct. 13. At least 7,000 have left Singkil to find shelter in several areas in North Sumatra.
Several mass organizations protested to the Singkil regency demanding 21 churches be torn down in early October claiming that they lack proper permits. However, the regency planned to tear down 10 churches on Oct. 19. The masses then decided to do the tearing down themselves and attacked the areas where congregations were standing on guard.
Penrad Siagian, executive secretary at the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI) criticizes the 1979 agreements on religious houses that was often cited as a defense by regency officials. The officials also issued another policy in 2006, which limited minorities in practicing their beliefs.
"The State is the source of conflict. I don't see the importance of their presence, even after they were involved, there was no change in the decision," Penrad said referring to churches being demolished by Public Order Agency (Satpol PP).
Nine churches were torn down by the Singkil regency on Oct. 24, newsportal tempo.co reported on Saturday based on the agreement to tear down 10 illegal churches signed by Aceh's local consultative forum, or Muspida.
National Police chief Gen. Badrodin Haiti had dismissed Aceh Singkil police chief Adj. Sr. Cmr. Budi Samekto last week over negligence as he was deemed to have failed in securing the Singkil area from the conflict.
The police named 10 suspects for the case including the instigator of the action.
Separately, Legal and Human Rights Minister Yasonna H. Laoly claimed that the government had managed the issue properly in such a short time.
"Please don't trigger new insecurities," he told reporters in the parliament complex.(rin)
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