Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Church,rights groups press Jakarta on Pastor's murder

JAKARTA, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Local church and rights groups demanded on Tuesday that the Indonesian government catch the killers of a murdered Christian pastor and uncover the roots of the cycle of violence gripping Central Sulawesi province.
Reverend Irianto Kongkoli was shot in the head when he was buying ceramic tiles on Monday at a shop in the province's capital of Palu, 1,650 km (1,030 miles) northeast of Jakarta.
The incident was not the first close-range assassination of Christian clergy in Central Sulawesi, still suffering from sporadic violence after Muslims and Christians agreed to end the 1998-2001 sectarian war in the province's Poso region.
"The lives of people in Central Sulawesi are shrouded with fear. The government's approach is too standard. Every time there is unrest, troops are sent. More should be done," said Reverend Andreas Yewangoe, head of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, the country's umbrella group for Protestants.
"The church institution urges the setting of an independent team to probe the recurring violence," he said, adding that religious groups were being pushed to revive the conflict.
Police have said two men wearing masks were involved in Monday's shooting. Police are interrogating witnesses including Kongkoli's wife, herself a policewoman, who was waiting for her husband in a car outside the shop.
Police have failed to unearth perpetrators of previous assassination cases, and Indonesia's leading human rights group Kontras said government efforts have failed to show political will to get to the bottom of the problem in Central Sulawesi.
"The government is not serious in resolving the problems in conflict areas and it tends to ignore its own responsibility," Kontras operational head Indria Fernida told a news conference.
The group accuses figures in the security forces of being behind the tension.

SYSTEM WORKING?

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told reporters he has ordered security forces to take necessary measures.
"Our system is working. But we need contributions from all parties. We need to really end the conflict among us," he said.
The province has become more tense since the executions last month of three Christian militants over the slaying of Muslims in a boarding school in 2000, the peak of the sectarian clashes.
Small bombs have sporadically exploded in Poso since the executions although most of them have caused no damage or injuries and two Muslims had been killed during a protest against the executions.
The Catholic trio were executed on Sept. 22 by a firing squad despite appeals from Pope Benedict and rights groups.
About 800 extra police and troops have been sent to Poso town due to the latest inter-religious tensions.
Three years of sectarian clashes in Central Sulawesi killed more than 2,000 people before a peace accord took effect in late 2001. There has been sporadic violence ever since.
Around 85 percent of Indonesia's 220 million people follow Islam, but Central Sulawesi have roughly equal numbers of Muslims and Christians.
Three Islamic militants are on death row for the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people. Kontras accuse the government of using the two execution cases as "a balancing tool in the politics of Muslim-Christian segregation.

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