Leave or die, machete mobs tell Borneo settlers

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The Independent Online

The ethnic cleansing of Palangkaraya, the regional capital of the Indonesian province of Central Kalimantan, is almost complete. As panic-stricken refugees fled to the relative safety of the police headquarters, armed Dyak gangs roamed the streets yesterday, intent on flushing out the last of the hated Madurese settlers.

The ethnic cleansing of Palangkaraya, the regional capital of the Indonesian province of Central Kalimantan, is almost complete. As panic-stricken refugees fled to the relative safety of the police headquarters, armed Dyak gangs roamed the streets yesterday, intent on flushing out the last of the hated Madurese settlers.

Despite strong words from the Indonesian government, which pledged to send special forces to resolve the crisis in Borneo, the Dyak tribesmen control Palangkaraya. Yesterday they burnt scores of houses and set up roadblocks, threatening motorists with spears and machetes and searching vehicles for fleeing Madurese. The security forces stood by and watched.

"Any Madurese who stay in this province will be killed," said one Dyak, Azan Tein. "We have had enough of them. They rape our women. They do not respect our culture. Either they leave or die. Central Kalimantan must be for Dyaks only."

For the past nine days, the Dyaks, original inhabitants of the Borneo rainforests, have been hunting immigrants from the island of Madura, who settled in Kalimantan several generations ago under a transmigration programme conceived to relieve pressure on overcrowded parts of the country.

The Dyaks, who have mutilated and decapitated many of their victims, say the Madurese pushed them off their traditional lands and stole their jobs in the gold, tin and copper mines. It is estimated that the death toll will have reached 1,000when the rotting corpses in fields and houses have been counted.

The bloodshed began in the river port of Sampit, now nearly empty of its large Madurese population. Some 10,000 people have been evacuated to the main Indonesian island of Java, and a further 25,000 wait in squalid refugee camps to follow. The first food supplies and medicines were delivered yesterday to the camps, where at least five people including two children have already died.

On Sunday the violence spread to Palangkaraya and outlying townships. About 400 people were evacuated from the capital yesterday to East Kalimantan, and 100 were expected to follow. Madurese in Palangkaraya said theydid not wish to leave, but had no choice.

Indonesia's chief security minister, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who arrived in Kalimantan on Sunday, a week after the killings started, said yesterday that the conflict might move to remote areas difficult to reach. "[But] action will be taken to prevent it spreading," he said.

The Dyaks, who have paraded the severed heads of their victims in accordance with ancient tradition, patrolled the streets of the capital in trucks and on motorbikes yesterday, strik- ing terror into the hearts of remaining Madurese. Chanting "War! War!", they also hunted settlers hiding in the forests. One tribesman said: "After 30 years, this is our revenge for neo-colonialism by the Madurese."

President Abdurrahman Wahid, who is attending a summit of developing nations in Cairo on the latest leg of a much-criticised two-week overseas trip, said crack special forces had been dispatched to Borneo.

The Vice-President, Megawati Sukarnoputri, breaking a week of silence, said the government was already stretched by conflicts around the country but an additional army battalion was on its way to Kalimantan. He pledged that the violence would cease within three days.

Malaysia, fearing an influx of refugees from Kalimantan, is stepping up patrols along its land border with Indonesia.

The first refugees from Sampit arrived in the East Javanese port of Surabaya yesterday, weeping and atrocity-shocked. Witnesses said the occupants of the naval vessel were crying, "Water, please give us water," as the ship approached dock.

One Madurese man, Khoiruddin, had left behind his Dyak wife. "They did not do anything to my wife, but they have slaughtered my three children and burned my house to the ground," he said. "I had to hide on a boat."

Another, Kosin, who abandoned a store near Sampit that he built up over 23 years, said: "The swords and spears of the Dyaks have souls like birds. They know who is Madurese and who is not. No matter how many troops they send, they can never fight these birds."

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