The Jakarta Post
With a prolonged manhunt for terrorist leader Santoso in Poso, Central Sulawesi, seemingly drawing to a conclusion, the government has set out a new holistic solution to address conflict in the tumultuous region. The new approach will aim at bolstering security in the region, as well as improving the economy and upholding justice.
Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan said on Friday that the government had studied all conflict triggers in Poso, and would address them to minimize the potential for future problems.
'We believe that conflict in Poso and the presence of Santoso in the area is closely linked to the previous conflicts that occurred here in the late 90s,' Luhut told a media gathering in Jakarta.
From the late 1990s to the mid-2000s, Poso saw bloody sectarian conflict between Muslims and Christians. The violence officially ended with the signing of the Malino Accords in 2001 and 2002, but the region has remained a hotbed of terrorist activity.
Santoso, also known as Abu Wardah, is the leader of the East Indonesia Mujahiddin (MIT), and is also believed to be the de facto leader of the Islamic State (IS) movement in Indonesia. The group is alleged to have been involved in several attacks on police personnel in Central Sulawesi.
Conflict in Poso is most commonly brought about by asset disputes, illegal mining, violence and radicalism.
Many teachers have fled as a result of conflict, leaving students in the area untaught. As a consequence, young people have been vulnerable to the influence of radical ideology. The government, Luhut said, would therefore deploy more teachers to teach in the province's schools and lead deradicalization programs.
The government will also revive swathes of land left fallow as a result of people fleeing conflict as part of efforts to create jobs, he added.
Based on data from the Office of the Coordinating Economic Minister, there are 142 villages in Poso, most of them mired in poverty. The government will appoint new village leaders, and each village will receive Rp 1.4 billion (US$107,363) to improve its economy and build infrastructure to reduce economic inequality.
Luhut said the government expected job creation and construction of infrastructure to address widespread complaints of inequality and lack of opportunity.
'We will furthermore address all the problems surrounding asset ownership in Poso. This is an issue that needs to be addressed ' many sales of assets between individuals remain unresolved,' the minister said.
The government is also aiming to crack down on illegal mining in Poso, a sector that employs roughly 10,000 people. The mines are environmentally destructive and create tensions among local people.
Moreover, Luhut noted, illegal mining could be used as a means of financing for radical groups.
The government is meanwhile optimistic that a joint police-military operation will in the near future locate and apprehend Santoso and his followers, thought to number between 30 and 45.
'We have cornered them in a small area hemmed in by mountains. We have identified their hideout, and are now deploying antiguerilla forces to capture them,' Luhut said.
The joint operation, called Operation Tinombala, has seen the deployment of around 3,000 military and police personnel.
Operation Tinombala, which replaced the earlier Operation Camar Maleo in 2015, began on Jan. 10 this year and was to end on March 9; however, with Santoso still at large in the jungle, the operation has been extended until May 10.
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