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Cablegate: Central Sulawesi: Local Views of Post Conflict Economic

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RR RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJS #0074/01 1710913
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 190913Z JUN 08
FM AMCONSUL SURABAYA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0237
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0123
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEHJA/AMEMBASSY JAKARTA 0223
RUEHJS/AMCONSUL SURABAYA 0242
RUEHC/USAID WASHDC
RHHMUNA/USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 0123

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SURABAYA 000074

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ID KISL PTER EAID PREL SOCI SCUL
SUBJECT: CENTRAL SULAWESI: LOCAL VIEWS OF POST CONFLICT ECONOMIC
RECOVERY IN POSO

REF: SURABAYA 85

SURABAYA 00000074 001.2 OF 002


This message is sensitive but unclassified. Please protect
accordingly.

1. (SBU) Summary: Former sites of extreme violence between
Muslim and Christian communities throughout the Central Sulawesi
city of Poso are now safe, although physical signs of the
conflict remain. Residents of the Poso and NGO leaders told
visiting Surabaya Pol/Econ Officer that economic development is
the key to integrating communities once polarized by violence.
A tour of the city and discussion with residents confirmed that
violence of the sort that occurred over the previous decade
would not return if the economy continued to improve. End
Summary.

2. (SBU) A late May car trip around Poso demonstrated that each
of its neighborhoods had a different experience during the years
of conflict. Today, each is at a different stage of recovery.
At one extreme, one former Christian area in southeast Poso is
nothing but ruins hidden along asphalt streets nearly reclaimed
by the jungle. At the other extreme, several religiously mixed
neighborhoods closer to central Poso were largely or completely
unscathed during the fighting. According to one NGO worker,
Muslims and Christians in these neighborhoods protected one
another's homes, identifying with neighbors of other faiths
instead of with extremists of their own faith during the
conflict. Tanah Runtuh in southwest Poso is a village that was
once the site of a shoot-out between Indonesian anti-terror
units and the extremist group Jemaah Islamiyah. Today Tanah
Runtuh looks like a sleepy East Javanese village and local
people travel freely through the center of town.

Bamboo Hill Has Moved On
-----------------------------

3. (SBU) The predominantly Christian village of Bukit Bambu
(Bamboo Hill) overlooks the city of Poso from an isolated
hilltop about two miles southwest of downtown. In 2005, three
Christian girls native to the village were beheaded on an
isolated road as they walked to school. The road is still in
poor repair and only motorcycles and pedestrians can use it
safely, according to a minister and retired school teacher who
live in the village. The village's new church and elementary
school were rebuilt in 2006. Sweeping her outstretched arm as
she stood in a soccer field that serves as the village square,
the teacher said, "all this was burned to the ground." She
included her home and that of her neighbor, the minister, in the
gesture. They both said they can't afford to build new homes so
temporary houses provided by the government, so-called RTS
(Rumah Tinggal Sementara), have become their permanent homes.
The heavily decorated graves of the three school girls beheaded
by three extremist Muslim attackers are located barely two
meters from the roadside at the village entrance. Despite first
hand experience with violence the villagers of Bukit Bambu said
they are weary of conflict and focused on practical concerns,
especially effective cocoa farming.

4. (SBU) Bukit Bambu's minister said that business skills are
lacking among local farmers and this often causes jealousy
towards Javanese and Balinese newcomers who seem to succeed
where locals fail. This was true particularly in retail trades
but also in agriculture. Local farmers need business skills to
diversify and save for the long term, she said. Poso farmers
are too easily satisfied with just getting by while outsiders
are apt to try to expand their operations and diversify,
according to many in Poso. Poso's limited local port facilities
and roads exacerbate the region's isolation and increase the
difficulty of moving goods to market. Ironically, hillsides
cleared for timber and cocoa production along the region's main
artery, the Palu - Poso road, are prone to landslides as a
result of deforestation. This creates a need for major seasonal
repair and further delays getting goods of all kinds to market.

Sino-Indonesians, What Brings them Back?
--------------------------------------------

5. (SBU) Ethnic Chinese-Indonesians continue to return to Poso
and many are playing an important economic role, according to
observation and conversations with local residents. Two large
motorcycle retail franchises and repair shops have opened over
the last four years across from the national police headquarters
in Poso. Poso's only large electrical appliance retailer opened
nearby. A motorcycle parts shop owner of Chinese descent told

SURABAYA 00000074 002.2 OF 002


Pol-Econ officer that she had returned just two years ago and
opened up in a prime location next to the major motorcycle
retailers in the center of town. She sensed that there was some
risk of violence to her business, but felt that such a
possibility was remote. When asked why some sections of the
city had yet to see re-development, she speculated that many
smaller Sino-Indonesian shop owners lacked the capital needed to
return from where they had fled. She explained that for a small
shop owner, the returns would not outweigh the risks and many
would be reluctant to start from scratch. Portions of the city
outside the main shopping district and Poso Market remain
shuttered and some former shop fronts are being used as
warehouses for other businesses, according to local merchants
there.

The New Terminal and the Rocky Road Ahead
--------------------------------------------- ---

6. (SBU) Poso's economy has long depended on its transport links
to other parts of Sulawesi. A strong migrant community in Poso
reflects the region's history as a regional crossroads.
However, there are no large scale port facilities, except those
used for fuel transport by the national oil company Pertamina.
Completed in 2007, a new transport terminal is an emblem of the
challenges to recovery in Poso. Constructed barely a half mile
south of Tanah Runtuh and about two miles southwest of the city
center, the new transport terminal was built to attract
trans-Sulawesi transport from the coastal highway running
through the city. It has yet to replace the current terminal
downtown, however. Local residents said that the terminal is
too far away from Poso Market. Intended to relieve congestion
downtown and develop other parts of the city damaged by the
conflict, the roads linking the terminal to the coastal road or
the rest of Poso have yet to be improved. The site remains
largely deserted, surrounded by fields, ruined buildings, and
unimproved roads.
MCCLELLAND

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