Search

 

Cablegate: Maluku: Ethnicity, Religion Might Trigger Post-Election

VZCZCXRO5676
RR RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJS #0065/01 1500906
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 290906Z MAY 08
FM AMCONSUL SURABAYA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0221
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0116
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEHJA/AMEMBASSY JAKARTA 0207
RUEHJS/AMCONSUL SURABAYA 0226
RUEHC/USAID WASHDC
RHHMUNA/USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 0114

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SURABAYA 000065

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP, EAP/MTS, EAP/MLS, DRL, INR/EAP

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KISL KIRF PTER PINS ASEC ID
SUBJECT: MALUKU: ETHNICITY, RELIGION MIGHT TRIGGER POST-ELECTION
UNREST

REF: SURABAYA 60

SURABAYA 00000065 001.2 OF 002


This message is sensitive but unclassified. Please protect
accordingly.


1. (SBU) Summary: While Maluku remains calm, recent fighting
between a handful of villages has underscored the role of
ethnicity in all aspects of life in Maluku, ConGen Surabaya
Pol-Econ Officer and Pol-Econ Assistant found during meetings
with NGOs, media and political parties in Ambon, Maluku on May
19 and 20. Observers told us that the July 9 race for governor
will be close and candidates will be increasingly tempted to
push sectarian and ethnic buttons in an effort to win. Flawed
voter rolls and irregularities could be initial triggers to
post-election instability. End Summary

Not Only Religious Ties that Bind
---------------------------------

2. (SBU) Native place ethnicity in the Maluku context matters
as much as religious faith according to many we spoke with
during a May 19-20 visit to the provincial capital Ambon.
Villages remain bound by ties of "bela gandung" implying
familial and linguistic bonds. During the period of armed
conflict between Christian and Muslim communities, combatants
often spared the lives of people of the same ethnic group but
different religion. These bonds remain strong despite efforts
of Muslim hardliners from Java. Hardliners reportedly insist
that allegiance to non-Muslim fellow villagers in accordance
with tradition is un-Islamic and forbidden. These "bela
gandung" ties helped check violence, and yet conflict based on
the same set of ties does occur (reftel). Whether these
historic ties will continue to moderate potential Christian and
Muslim polarization in the coming decades is an open question.
Representatives from the Islamic Crescent Star Party (PBB) told
us that Maluku voters voted their ethnicity and downplayed the
role of religion. The Islamic Prosperous Justice Party (PKS)
was also circumspect about ethnicity and religion during our
discussion. They stressed the ecumenical nature of their
strategy in Maluku and elsewhere.

Governor's Race: Christian v. Muslim
------------------------------------

3. (SBU) While ethnicity and religion don't always coincide in
Maluku, political races here are still oriented along religious
lines. The Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDI-P) and
PKS are considered Christian and Muslim parties, respectively.
Red, the color of PDI-P, was also the color of the Christian
militia during the conflict; likewise white was the color of
Islamic fighters and the color of PKS. To journalist Ms.
Febrianti Imelda Kaihatu of the Ambon-based daily, Suara Maluku,
the Christian Muslim match-up looks a little too much like a
replay of Maluku's conflict years. Members of Maluku PDI-P are
overwhelmingly Christian (most are in Ambon), while PKS finds
its base in the Muslim community, nearly 60% of Maluku's
population. Recent broadcast text messages to cell phone
subscribers in Maluku encouraged Muslim solidarity with the PKS
candidate, Abdullah Tuasikal. Both front-runners have
religiously "balanced" tickets common in parts of Indonesia with
significant Christian populations. The Vice Governor candidate,
Said Assagaf is Muslim and his PKS- supported challenger,
Septinus Hematang is Christian. However, it is the winning
governor's religion and the core identity of his party support
that really matters, according to our sources.

4. (SBU) Several sources told us that the incumbent Christian,
Karel Albert Ralahalu, is the frontrunner in the upcoming
governor's election. Ralahalu is supported by Indonesian
Democratic Party for Struggle (PDI-P) and known as a leader
close to the people, often traveling to remote West Maluku
Tenggara to see what is on residents' minds. Ralahalu's
government has doled out food assistance and shelter to victims
in the recent violent clash between Saleman (Muslim) and Horale
(Christian) villages (reftel). The speed and largesse of the
assistance is due to the upcoming election, according to
Febrianti and other sources in Maluku.

5. (SBU) Strongest among the Muslim candidates is the PKS
candidate, Abdullah Tuasikal, according to Febrianti and
Christian and Muslim members of Maluku Interfaith Institution
(LAIM). Known as a tough campaigner, Tuasikal is currently in
his second term as Bupati of Central Maluku. Alleged

SURABAYA 00000065 002.2 OF 002


involvement by the incumbent in corruption could help PKS.
Given the current trend towards a religiously polarized race, a
close victory could spark calls for a recount and even a new
election. LAIM members speculated that a victory by PKS will
encourage Muslim voters to accept a greater role for Islam in
politics.

Voter Rolls -- Another Flash Point
----------------------------------

6. (SBU) Voter roll irregularities could also be a flashpoint
for conflict. The number of registered voters in the Central
Maluku Regency for the upcoming governor's election is
significantly smaller than the number registered for Central
Maluku's Regency election in 2007. Voter rolls should be nearly
identical in both contests. Central Maluku only just completed
its election and the results have been verified by the election
commission. Febrianti was incredulous about why there has been
no uproar or even mention of this among local politicians. She
speculated that the issue might be kept in reserve in the event
dirt is needed to tarnish PKS's Tuasikal.
MCCLELLAND

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC