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Cablegate: Maluku: Peace Reigns After Alleged Blasphemy Sparks A

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RR RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJS #0137/01 3530828
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 180828Z DEC 08
FM AMCONSUL SURABAYA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0338
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0164
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEHDT/AMEMBASSY DILI 0021
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHJA/AMEMBASSY JAKARTA 0324
RUEHJS/AMCONSUL SURABAYA 0344
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0056

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SURABAYA 000137

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KISL KIRF PTER PINS ASEC ID
SUBJECT: MALUKU: PEACE REIGNS AFTER ALLEGED BLASPHEMY SPARKS A
DAY-LONG SECTARIAN RIOT

SURABAYA 00000137 001.2 OF 002


This message is sensitive but unclassified. Please protect
accordingly.

1. (SBU) Summary. Rebuilding is underway in the Central Maluku
town of Masohi after a day-long sectarian riot broke out there
after more than four years of calm. On December 9, more than 60
houses and two churches were burned and six people were injured
in Masohi on Seram Island some 120 km east of the provincial
capital Ambon. Nearly 300 families fled their homes as a result
of violence. Local press and Congen Surabaya contacts suggest
that the riot was triggered by the anti-Islamic statements of a
Christian elementary school teacher the town. Police also named
Asmara Wasahua, a local legislative candidate from the
Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) as a suspect in inciting the
crowd to violence. Authorities and local community leaders
prevented the conflict from spreading and Congen Surabaya
contacts confirmed that the violence had ended entirely by
December 10. Sources said it was too early to speculate on
possible political manipulation of the riot. For now, all
fingers point to the unfortunate statements of an elementary
school teacher as the proximate cause. End Summary

2. (SBU) On December 9, one day after Muslims celebrated Eid ul
Adha, a major religious holiday and national holiday in
Indonesia, a riot broke out in Masohi in a response to rumors
that elementary school teacher Welhemina Holle, had insulted
Islam in comments she made while teaching a sixth grade class.
She allegedly commented that Muslims look like goats chewing
grass while they pray. News of the insult was especially
inflammatory during a holiday that includes the sacrifice of
goats, sheep and cows and distribution of the meat to the poor.
Students reported their teacher's statement to their parents and
news of the alleged blasphemy spread quickly through the Muslim
community. The local chapter of Indonesian Muslim Council (MUI)
lodged a police complaint and by 8:30 AM on December 9 some 500
Muslims had gathered to demonstrate in front of the Central
Maluku Department of Education. Parents of students who had
witnessed Holle's statement brought their children to the
protest and demanded that Holle be dismissed.

3. (SBU) According to Mr. Abidin of Maluku Interfaith Forum told
Congen Surabaya violence started when an unidentified man
provoked the protesters by striking a light pole-a common means
of warning a community of danger. Protestors started throwing
rocks and rioting quickly spread. Two churches, a health
clinic, some 67 homes, four vans used for public transport, and
a motorcycle were burned. Six people were injured, two
seriously. Congen Surabaya contacts said tensions remain high
in Ambon and many said that the telecommunications network was
barely operational for almost six hours. Rumors continue that
communications were blocked by authorities to avoid provocation
by cell phone voice and SMS.

--------------------------------------------- ------------------

Community Leaders Stop Violence From Spreading

--------------------------------------------- ------------------

4. (SBU) Police were deployed immediately to the site of the
riot and by the next day, December 10, Masohi had nearly
returned to normal. While some markets, offices, and schools
had yet to reopen, residents returned to their homes after
seeking refuge at the barracks of the 731 Kabaressy Infantry
Battalion. The Governor, the Pattimura Military Commander, the
Maluku Police Chief, the MUI chairman, and the head of
Protestant Synod all traveled to Masohi and held a public dialog
with local religious and community leaders. Local leaders
agreed to maintain calm after the governor urged them to learn
from the past when prolonged sectarian conflict claimed
thousands of lives.

SURABAYA 00000137 002.2 OF 002

--------------------------------------------- --------------

With Culprits Caught, Reflection and Rebuilding

--------------------------------------------- ---------------

5. (SBU) Police have detained three people; Welhemina Holle,
Asmara Wasahua, and Mohammad Boci Patty. On December 12, the
Maluku Police Chief, Mudji Waluyo, named Welhemina and Asmara
Wasahua as suspects for sparking the riot. Boci Patty is
currently charged with twelve counts of arson. Holle was
charged with blasphemy, while Asmara who was caught on film
leading a protest that later turned into a riot, is being
charged with inciting criminal behavior. Asmara Wasahua is the
chairman of the Central Maluku Muslim Communication Forum and
PKS' legislative candidate for the Central Maluku legislature.
During a December 10 conversation about the involvement of
political parties in the Masohi riot, Sufi Madjid, a member of
Maluku provincial legislature from PKS denied involvement by his
or any political party in the riot. Abidin of Maluku Interfaith
Forum said that Welhemina Holle might be innocent of the
accusations, or she might simply be ignorant of the impact of
her statements on her students. Alternatively, he speculated,
she might have been willfully misinterpreted and a victim of a
conspiracy to start a riot.

6. (SBU) Reverend John Ruhulessin, Chairman of Maluku's
Protestant Synod suggested that a collective apology to Muslims
by Christians was in order if the blasphemy charges proved true.
Sufi Madji told Congen Surabaya that, when linked to religious
faith, any incident no matter how small could spark a riot and
"cause ordinary people to do bad things." On December 17 Maluku
Governor, Karel Ralahalu, estimated that government needs Rp.
1.8 billion (USD 165,000) to repair houses, churches, and public
facilities damaged during the riot. Abdulah Tuasikal, the
Regent of Central Maluku, said that the local government has
started to repair houses and churches, hopefully in time for
Christmas services. While there are indications that local
politicians might yet turn the riot to political purposes,
Ikhsan Tauleka of Maluku Democratization Watch told us that it
is still too early to tell if the riot can be traced to the
continued rivalry between Regent Abdulah Tuasikal who is a
failed PKS gubernatorial candidate, and incumbent Governor Karel
Ralahalu who won the Governor's race with the support of the
Indonesian Party for Democratic Struggle PDI-P in July 2008.
MCCLELLAND

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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