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Cablegate: Indonesia: Maluku/Ambon Rebuilding Efforts Continue to Make

VZCZCXRO6745
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJA #0640/01 0650924
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 060924Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY JAKARTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3624
INFO RUEHZS/ASEAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHGP/AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE 5755
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0491
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 1377
ZEN/AMCONSUL SURABAYA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 JAKARTA 000640

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

FROM AMCONSUL SURABAYA #0027

E.O. 12958: NA
TAGS: PHUM EAID PINS PREF ECON PGOV ID
SUBJECT: INDONESIA: MALUKU/AMBON REBUILDING EFFORTS CONTINUE TO MAKE
PROGRESS

REFS: A. 06 Jakarta 5366

B. 05 Jakarta 4890
C. 05 Jakarta 3145
D. 05 Jakarta 0240
E. 04 Jakarta 9264
F. 04 Jakarta 9254

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In a two-day trip to Ambon, capitol of Maluku
province and an area once characterized by sectarian conflict, Feb.
22-23, Consulate General Surabaya Public Affairs Officer (PAO) met
with a variety of local contacts to discuss the current situation in
the area and ideas for future public diplomacy outreach. Time and
again, contacts reiterated local commitment to continued peace and
strong support for community development efforts, noting that the
current challenges facing Ambon are related to poverty and the
area's tarnished reputation following several years of violence, not
the potential for serious violence itself. Their commitment was
demonstrated recently after two recent incidents involving homemade
explosive devices March 3 and 5. Police are treating the events as
criminal rather than terrorist acts. Both Christian and Muslim
leaders publicly condemned the attacks, which are not seen as
sectarian in nature. Malukan political, religious and business
leaders are confident that the enormous efforts put in to building
inter-religious dialog over the past three years are paying
dividends. END SUMMARY.

PUTTING A NEW FACE ON AMBON
---------------------------

2. (U) The trip was the second visit made by PAS Surabaya in two
years and the Consulate's ninth in three years. During the visit,
PAS met with community leaders, media, and alumni, researched
potential Ambassador Cultural Fund projects, and met with students
and teachers at University Pattimura. Pattimura, the province's
major public university, is struggling to return to its previous
position as one of the most respected higher education institutions
in Eastern Indonesia.

3. (U) According to contacts, Ambon is working hard to move past the
years of sectarian conflict that broke out in 1999. (Background
note: At a superficial level, the violence erupted after a simple
traffic accident, sparking unrest caused by the deeper social issues
resulting from several decades of transmigration of Javanese and
Sulawesi Muslims to what was a predominately Christian province (and
concurrent suspicions of "government-sponsored Islamization") as
well as interference from outside provocateurs - both Muslim and
Christian. End note.) The 2002 Malino accords brought Christian and
Muslim leaders together and marked the official end to the violence.
While there were some minor incidents in 2003, the situation has
been calm and stabile for the last 3 years (Reftels.)

4. (SBU) Ambonese at all levels are trying to work across religious
and ethnic lines to rebuild the province. PAO was impressed in
particular by the dedication of religious and community leaders to
work together for Maluku's continued development. Several
inter-religious groups conduct programs in local schools and among
community groups to promote cross cultural understanding and
conflict resolution. They are also working together to educate local
residents about the causes of past conflicts. Several contacts said
they believe locals are now more aware of the role provocateurs from
outside the region - Laskar Jihad among them - played in promoting
violence in the past. Community leaders of different faiths also
often publicly work and meet together to set an example for their
communities. During a dinner with young religious leaders, Jacky
Manuputty, Director of the Maluku Interfaith Institution for
Humanitarianism, cited comments made by Sidney Jones when she
recently visited Ambon as evidence of the significant changes that
have taken place. The two had spent several months working together
during the conflict and, according to Manuputty, she said, "Ambon
was a completely different place" than it was only a few years ago.


5. (SBU) The combination of improved security and local commitment
to development will allow the USG to reopen a more formal
relationship with the University of Pattimura in Ambon with the
expected placement of an English Language Fellow next year.
(Background Note: Pattimura has a long history of cooperation with
USG, mainly USAID, Fulbright and the former USIS, but those
relationships largely fell dormant after 1999. End Note.) Pattimura
is well aware of the battle it faces to rebuild itself and its
reputation given recent history.

6. (SBU) There is intense interest among young religious leaders and
academics in developing civic education programs with strong focus
on cross-cultural understanding and conflict resolution. Civic

JAKARTA 00000640 002 OF 002


education programs are particularly important given the segregation
between religious groups in Maluku, which limits opportunities for
communities to learn about other religions and engage in interfaith
dialogue. Local religious leaders solicited PAO for support for
sustainable education programs in the region that would give
residents the tools to avoid future conflict. Another potential area
for future cooperation and support is skills training which would
expand opportunities for residents beyond the most currently viable
career paths of military or police force.

7. (SBU) Throughout the trip, PAO saw evidence of rebuilding efforts
- new buildings are going up, there are more foreign visitors, and
contacts spoke of new foreign investment, mainly in natural
resources from British and Russian firms. Local leaders are trying
to promote the region and are working on several large public
displays to showcase the province's newfound stability, including
reviving the Darwin to Ambon yacht race. The yacht race was held
annually from 1976 to 1998 when it was halted because of sectarian
violence. Last year, four Australian boats sailed to Ambon to
participate in a 30th anniversary celebration and as a sign of the
Australian commitment to restart the annual event (at present,
scheduled for July 2007.) Local residents are hoping the event will
bring hundreds of Indonesian and foreign tourists to Ambon, giving
them an important opportunity to demonstrate how much the area has
changed.

DESPITE SIGNIFICANT CHANGES, CHALLENGES REMAIN
--------------------------------------------- -

8. (SBU) Maluku remains one of the poorest provinces in Indonesia
with 55% of it residents earning less than $1 per day, despite
significant natural resources. Post contacts consistently say that
economic development is most hampered by the lack of sea
transportation infrastructure between the more than 600 islands in
Maluku and to other parts of Indonesia. Remote areas have little or
no access to transportation and only local markets for their goods.
Local officials have plans to develop a ferry and small cargo ship
fleet to help improve market access but do not have the funds to
purchase ships. The lack of transportation infrastructure also
causes significant difficulties for the provincial government and
police, preventing a quick response to local issues and needs and
slowing implementation of major government programs.

9. (SBU) While the economic climate is improving, a contact from
Ambon Express noted that 80% of new investments are in real estate
development, not new enterprises. He voiced concern that much of the
province's economic optimism is based on Maluku's abundant natural
resources and potential for foreign investment, rather than the
actual influx of new business. Given the complications foreign
investment in resource extraction has caused in other parts of
Indonesia, he wondered if local officials were being realistic in
their expectations, both in terms of time and financial benefit.
(Note: Many of the new buildings are "replacements" for structures
destroyed during the years of sectarian violence rather than new
construction. End Note.)

INTERFAITH DIALOGUE THE KEY TO AN END OF VIOLENCE
--------------------------------------------- ----

10. (SBU) Maluku is making an important comeback, overcoming serious
sectarian violence and charting consistent improvement in social,
security, and religious issues. The commitment by local leaders to
move forward and not repeat the mistakes of the past is an example
which other areas of Indonesia could learn from. These days, local
squabbles no longer spark larger violence and are handled as routine
law enforcement actions. For example, a bombing incident at Yos
Sudarso Port March 3 involved two neighborhood groups fighting over
control of the port using a homemade, low grade explosive device (13
people were injured by the explosion). Subsequently, a similar
unexploded device was identified at an Ambon shopping center March
5. Police are treating the bombs as criminal acts, with no apparent
links to former sectarian issues. The heads of the Christian Synod
and Muslim Ulema Council have publicly condemned the events. Post's
Ambon contacts tell us that residents attribute the two events to
purely private disagreements over access to a new local market and
there are no reports of disruptions in local life. Malukan
political, religious and business leaders, while disturbed by the
bombs, see no link to past sectarian issues and are confident that
the enormous efforts put in to building inter-religious dialog over
the past three years are paying dividends.

HEFFERN

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