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Tuesday, 6 March, 2001, 13:49 GMT
Borneo: Can the violence be stopped?
The decapitated bodies of 118 Madurese settlers hacked to death by Dayak tribesmen have been recovered in Indonesian Borneo.

This latest massacre brings the death toll, in a week of savage violence, to over 400. The indigenous Dayaks say they will not stop until they have forced the entire Madurese migrant population out of the Kalimantan area.

The Indonesian Government on Monday pledged to halt ethnic violence on Borneo. Yet, reports say that the army is doing little to halt the killing, looting and burning.

What can be done to stop the violence? Can the Indonesian authorities control it? Should a UN peace-keeping force be brought in?

Have your say
The idea of bringing a peacekeeping force into Indonesia to maintain order is an unrealistic one


D. Pereira, The Netherlands
The idea of bringing a peacekeeping force into Indonesia to maintain order is an unrealistic one. There is not a single country in the world that is prepared to send thousands of soldiers to such a vast and complex country as Indonesia. The possibility of clashes with dangerous armed gangs, and potential clashes with the already humiliated Indonesian army is a reason for the international community to do nothing.
D. Pereira, The Netherlands

I agree that it is anger that drove the Dayaks to do such terrible things. However, you may not know that the Dayak is known as one of the most "peaceful and mellow" ethnic group in Indonesia. Then if that is true, what is it that fuel their anger? Why don't they massacre the Chinese who are richer than the Madurese? Why do they help the Malays in any brawl against the Madurese? What is it about these Madurese? We can not stop the problem unless we understand the root of it. Not even with UN troops as they might be viewed as the "enemy" by the Dayak. Therefore, unless the Dayak, the government, the military and the Madurese can sit together and talk, there will not be an end to the violence.
P, Australia


Serious questions need to be raised as to the role of this organisation


David J Martin, England

How can it be argued that the UN cannot or should not intervene in the troubles of Indonesia? If the UN is not to take action then serious questions need to be raised as to the role of this organisation. Would it be too much of a revolutionary idea to stipulate that all member countries should agree to a code of conduct and if that code is broken then the UN is obliged and within its right to intervene?
David J Martin, England

The Indonesian government should be made accountable (at the UN) for the inaction of their police who appear to be ignoring the plight of the Madurese migrants; a UN peace-keeping force per se should not be required to control this type of internal violence, however, the UN should at least offer to "donate" some troops to contain the situation, hopefully this would "embarrass" the Indonesian government sufficiently into taking some serious action.
Mark Rogers-Evans, Switzerland

If a UN force were to be deployed, it would probably be rendered impotent by "rules of engagement" that effectively tied its hands. But if, against all odds, it did manage to quell the fighting, it would then have to keep the two sides apart - indefinitely. The protagonists would bide their time, if necessary for decades, until the UN got fed up and left, and then the genocide would resume. One point I must take issue with. I've seen a few comments here once again blaming "the West" for what's going on. Apparently, ogres that we are, we've been supplying the weapons that are doing the killing. I guess our machetes must be more high tech than that of anyone else.
Paul Hicks, UK

I think it's high time ASEAN got its act together. What is the point of a regional group if it cannot even attempt to help bring order in its own backyard? Indonesia is one highly unstable country at the moment and it's crazy for the ASEAN nations to pretend that nothing is happening. ASEAN's policy of non-intervention is not an excuse for turning a blind eye on a problem that could have very serious repercussions for the whole region.
Farah, Malaysian

The idea of bringing a peacekeeping force into Indonesia to maintain order is an unrealistic one. There is not a single country in the world that is prepared to send thousands of soldiers to a vast and complex country such as Indonesia. The possibility of clashes with dangerous armed gangs, and possible clashes with the already humiliated Indonesian army is a reason for the international community to do nothing.
D. Pereira, The Netherlands


All it can do at most is contain the violence there and then



Grace Ho How Lian, Bedok, Singapore

Bringing in a peacekeeping force is easier said than done. All it can do at most is contain the violence there and then. Beyond that, it is something else. It is hard to perceive the UN making a long-term commitment to the stability of the region. Yet this is precisely what is needed. Besides, what about the other regions in Indonesia? They need peace-keeping forces as well.
Grace Ho How Lian, Bedok, Singapore

The Indonesian Government obviously cannot control internal government affairs, never mind the entire country. A UN peacekeeping force needs to be deployed in the country to bring this civil unrest to a speedy end.
Peter Bolton, UK in USA

To break Indonesia apart would be inviting widespread chaos across South East Asia. The smaller independent states will be poor and incapable of proper administration. It will first invite internal strife within the states, then refugee problems and later economic chaos for the entire region. On the other hand, Indonesia has shown itself as being incapable of dealing with the issue in Kalimantan. The UN meanwhile, is just a talking shop and it is the responsibility of the Asean nations to assist Indonesia in keeping its problems in check.
Kamil, USA

One cannot really blame Nato, EU etc. for not intervening even as the Indonesians themselves drag their feet to help their own Madurese. If even a single foreign peace-keeper were to touch foot in Borneo without a government "invitation", there would be an outcry in Indonesia (and some of its neighbouring countries) against foreigners "meddling" in the country's domestic affairs. Besides, given that it is Muslims being victimised here, why should we look to Nato? What about the large number of Muslim countries in the world? Have they offered any substantial help to Indonesia and the Madurese, given the calls of Islamic "unity"?
Hashim Kassim, UK


Intervention only delays problems with artificial solution and a false sense of tranquillity until the next spark occurs


George Milton, USA

Intervene, don't intervene - it seems there is no good solution. Sometimes I think that intervention only delays problems with artificial solution and a false sense of tranquillity until the next spark occurs. Maybe we should "sit out" on a few of these. Forcing people to live together "peacefully" may make us feel good now but eventually result in a larger problem later. I assure everyone the people of the US do not want the role of policeman it is expensive, bloody, and generates hostility.
George Milton, USA

What is happening in Borneo and many parts of the world is a serious indication of where we are really heading for in the coming decades/century. Rampant capitalism in the name of globalisation, population explosion in the worst parts of the world, will only mean more fighting for the illusionary riches.
Leo, Australia

I'm afraid that I think that the West should intervene. While some argue that this is a matter of self-determination for the Indonesians (and others), and that we should not impose our values upon them, I argue the following: The ideals of freedom, safety and well-being for mankind is not a western concept, this is something universal and all people around the globe seek it for themselves. Saying that it is not our business how one country runs itself is dodging responsibility, and taking the easy option. We say the world is a community of nations? Well would you stand by while down the street one household is slaughtering its members? At the very least you would expect the police to intervene, in both scenarios these people are being denied rights to protection they are entitled to!
Michael Gahan, Ireland

This is an ASEAN problem and it is time ASEAN got its act together if the organisation is to mean anything at all to the stability of the region. Indonesian troops may not be the best answer - but Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand have well trained modern armies manned by bright intelligent people who are perfectly capable of peacekeeping activities.
David Williams, England


The solution is not to send in the UN but to stop selling arms


Michael Gold, UK

Indonesia is, as others have pointed out, not a natural country, it is a creation of colonialism. It is also a product of the rabid anti-communism of the 19650s and 1960s. The shameful history of the West and the manipulation of the UN has cost hundreds of thousands of lives. It is the same story of artificial borders that bedevils Africa; cartographers with no idea that the same tribe could live on both banks of the river. The solution is not to send in the UN but to stop selling arms. But that would be against our ethical foreign policy.
Michael Gold, UK

The west is always condemned for interfering in other countries' affairs, but surely we cannot let this go unheeded simply because they are not from our own country. To do that would be as bad as doing this ethnic "cleansing" ourselves. It must not continue and we must do something about it now.
Tim Jones, England


I don't think there is an effective short-term solution for this


MNW the Madurese, Indonesia

I don't think there is an effective short-term solution for this. And the idea of breaking up Indonesia is a stupid one. The problem has been the Government's transmigration policy that ignores cultural differences among ethnic groups. It was, at first, the policy of the Dutch colonial government. Then, it continued through Suharto period (remember, it was a military regime, with all of its "conquer and rule" mentality). Friction between locals and migrants also exists in other areas, such as West Papua. Indonesia needs to re-evaluate its transmigration policy. It should include education of locals and migrants to create cultural understanding. For now, perhaps the evacuation of the Madurese may be the only possible short term solution.
MNW the Madurese, Indonesia

This is simply further proof that different cultures do not mix well together. Humans are naturally tribal and will blame all their frustrations and hardships on the nearest possible scapegoat - those that are different. You can clearly see that the most peaceful countries in the world consist of largely indigenous populations. Both Africa and Indonesia are prime exemplars of how indigenous peoples should keep themselves to themselves and nations should not be created when they just do not exist.
Gilberto, Italy

Having spent some time working in Indonesia and having friends there, the same problem arises every time there is trouble. Corruption. It is rife in the country. What Indonesia needs, is a President who has drive, ambition, is anti-corruption, business minded and above all gets the people together to make the whole country work. Sadly, with all the politicians on the take, it will be some time.
Richard Bushnell, London, UK

I agree that the Indonesian Government has to get its act together, but with so many problems around the country and its immense size, how can one expect the Government to successfully and quickly contain the violence? This is an internal matter and UN forces or whatever country that wants to intervene should not be allowed. Why is it that whenever a problem arises in the world, the UK and the US have to see themselves as the police? No nation or world organisation has the right to interfere in a nation's sovereignty unless it wishes so.
Andre, London, UK

There is no way the US or the UK should get wrapped up in this, especially given the criticism of just about everything else we do on the international front. It is time for the Australians (by virtue of their location), French, Greeks, and some others (all by virtue of their past criticism of US/ UK actions) to step up to the plate and "show us how it's done". We'll be watching closely for your flawless execution of saving these people and restoring order over the long term.
Vic, USA

Those who demand that something must be done are usually the first to criticise those who actually do something.
Henry Case, UK


Indonesia is an un natural state. It was made through colonialism


RT England

Indonesia is an un natural state. It was made through colonialism. After independence the biggest majority the Javenese have dominated the country who are Muslim. In turn through corruption bad government and migration programs the minorities in this country have seen their social, cultural and religious identities suffer. In turn Islam has begun to dominate these areas. Indonesia is a Yugoslavia.
RT England

I saw a comment that "Once again, the international community stands by in idle splendour whilst a nation tears itself apart." This is Catch 22. If the West does not intervene, it's standing idly by, but if it does intervene, it's neo- colonialism. I think it's time we gave up the neurotic fear we have of the past and of our own history. We should start pointing out to the Third World that the West used to have a solution to Third World violence and chaos, and it worked, and it was called "colonialism". If that's what they want again, we should offer it to them.
Jon Livesey, USA

Once again the 'we must do something' brigade are out in force over Borneo/Indonesia. The philosophy that 'something must be done, because we can't do nothing' is fundamentally flawed, as it does not constitute a principle of action or freedom. This is a regional problem for the competent people of South East Asia to resolve, the last thing they need is to have their plight internationalised.
D McCarthy, Australia


When we don't intervene this is what happens


Keith, UK

When the UK and USA intervene in other countries affairs it seems the whole world turns against us. When we don't intervene this is what happens.
Keith, UK

I feel that sending in UN troops is the only effective way (as of now) the international community can deal with this conflict. Something must be done and fast. Similar slaughters have already plagued other Indonesian islands. The slaughter is spreading. A UN task force is the only hope.
Tamara Woolley, USA

There is strong evidence that Indonesia is fragmenting into bits of its former self and each fragment will be only a banana republic. I think the only way for anything go to happen is for Jakata to allow peaceful dissolution to a federal form, so less blood will be shed.
Matthew, Hong Kong

The Indonesian government, with the help of the UN should begin a program to repatriate the Madurese to their native homeland.
Tamuka, USA


Where is the UN when they are needed? Do we have to wait for another massacre to happen as did in Rwanda and East Timor before the international get involved


Joyce Liu, Great Britain

Where is the UN when they are needed? Do we have to wait for another massacre to happen as did in Rwanda and East Timor before the international get involved. Undeniably, this is an internal Indonesian problem but the fact is that the government is powerless and the army corrupt. The fact is also that this incident does not affect the welfare of powerful states like the US of Britain and hence is really of little consequence if a few hundred people are slaughtered. This is the cruelty of politics but if the crisis is not dealt with by the Indonesian authorities, more imminent crisis will swallow the whole of Indonesia and it will be too late.
Joyce Liu, Great Britain

As a proud half Indonesian, I agree with the notion that the Dayak as an indigenous people should have been respected in the first instance, and obviously remediation can only seriously be achieved through education of both the Maduranese as much as the Dayak. Fragmenting the country would be a huge detriment to the country and any area you fragment into. Think about it- the principal island of Java is responsible for the input of over 78% of the nation's income due to its function as an infrastructual nodal point and as an administration point. This money does percolate to the other islands, and to sever off this income would deprive millions of education and supplies that the government (although misaligned) had been setting up. Each island would fall apart trying to govern itself, with faction after faction rushing in to fill a power vacuum. This would undo almost 60 years of work since our country's independence. Fragmentation isn't the immediate answer- maybe in 30 yea! rs! time, but certainly not now.
Andy Welsh, Indonesia

This latest conflict, like several others is the result of previous regimes' policies, in this case transmigration carried out in previous decades. However, whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation Indonesia is a sovereign country and has no obligation to accept a UN backed or any other outside peacekeeping force which would only be likely to inflame nationalist sentiment.
Nick, Indonesia

Firstly we must address the issue of what a UN or NATO force would do. Would they have the right to discharge weapons at those committing these crimes against humanity? Would they be allowed to interfere when government troops do nothing? There is no question: We must act now or see the situation degrade severely.
Matthew Brown, Scotland

From what I have learned about Indonesia it seems to me that, as others have commented here, there is an urgent need for pressure from the international community to break the place up into either a much loser federation of autonomous republics, or totally independent states. It seems a totally artificial country that would be better served by allowing its various peoples, cultures and religions to disengage from the strangle-hold imposed on them by Djakarta.
Ramon Lancharro, Spain


The main problem in Borneo comes from the fact that the Indonesian government has completely ignored the rights of the Dayak people for years


Sylvestre, France

What is now happening in Borneo is absolutely horrible. But it will not be sufficient as some people suggest to "educate" the people of Borneo, nor is it a solution to blame the Western world for its colonial past. The main problem in Borneo comes from the fact that the Indonesian government has completely ignored the rights of the Dayak people for years. Population relocation programs were an absurdity considering that nobody ever asked the Dayak people who lived in Borneo if they wanted massive immigration and uncontrolled development of their land. Ill-conceived relocation programs are not a solution to solve problems due to overpopulation, and will bring more problems than they solve. Now that the bloodshed has started in Borneo, an international military presence will not help to solve the conflict, and the Madurese people will have no option but to leave the country, even though they have nowhere to go now. Governments from the many countries in the world where population levels have reached unsustainable levels should follow very closely the tragic events that now occur in Borneo.
Sylvestre, France

I read Talking Points posts with curious attention to nationalism. Australians seem to have an angry, righteous view of world events especially when they involve "America, the world's police". Indonesia is Australia's back yard, so let's hear Australia's answer to this sticky problem. Any chance of refugee status to increase that exclusive population of 15 million?
John, US

What is happening in Borneo is the scramble for resources. As soon as the indigenous discovered that immigrants are doing better than them, they started this horrendous act. In the new World Economic Order of Globalization, there is a quest for wealth, as a result the marginalized are becoming cannon fodder in the process. Absurd. Isn't it?
Eddie Wanzusi, Canada

Considering the colossal level of scorn that was heaped upon British and American efforts in the Balkans and Iraq, I doubt the wisdom of sending in any sort of peacekeeping force. Those who so cynically unleashed diatribes on the USA/UK and other nations for their interference in Kosovo, Iraq and Bosnia would likely again accuse the same allies as acting as an unwarranted international police force. Therefore, in line with these liberal morals let's just keep out of the situation and do nothing. Let Indonesia tear itself apart. After all, according to some, non-interference in another nation's affairs is the ethical thing to do.
Justin, UK

On the one hand, the Indonesian Government pledges to stop the ethnic cleansing. On the other hand, it is reported that the army just sits there and does nothing. There are two possibilities: either the Indonesian Government is telling lies or she is unable to control the army. In either circumstance, I think that the UN should immediately send its peacekeeping troop to stop the killings.
Michael Tse, Hong Kong

If Indonesia was important to the West, for example as an oil producer, then no doubt the US would be there "sorting things out" already!
T, UK


This tragedy is only but a reflection of the bigger problems the country is facing


Robert S, Malaysia

It is very sad indeed that we are witnessing another massacre. I think the Indonesian government is at fault. The current government headed by Gus Dur has inherited all the mistakes of the previous one and it appears that they lack the political will to stop such killings.

This tragedy is only but a reflection of the bigger problems the country is facing. It is high time something or someone i.e. not only local but international does something about it.
Robert S, Malaysia

Is it anger that is driving the Dayaks to brutally attack the Madurese. I wonder how much anger does it take for someone to behead and chop up men, women, and children! UN won't/can't intervene because it's not of their "interest policy". The US might intervene if they got convinced the Kalimantan area is full of oil or other natural resources. I wonder, what on earth is the Indonesian government/army waiting for to prosecute the offenders. They were attentive enough to send ships to evacuate the Madurese, are they that under-resourced to deploy security troops! Just wondering and I still think we are not fully informed about what is happening. Is there a faith/religion difference as well as an ethnicity difference between the two groups?
Hesham, New Zealand

With existing international rules you can't do anything unless UN is committed to it. It is so far away from Europe and therfore it is not big deal. See what is going is on Sri Lanka. For many years consecutive governments continued their crime against humanity and they still get along nicely with rest of the world
Soma, Norway

The Madurese, having over-populated their own territory to the point of exceeding it's carrying capacity, must be allowed to migrate to Borneo. There they may proceed to deforest, strip-mine, pollute and continue unabated the destruction produced by over-population that drove them to Borneo initially. The Dyaks, of course, must be prevented from defending their homes from expropriation and their land from exploitation. There is ample precedent after all, including the history of European settlers in America, carving a new life out of the American Indian.
Barry Locklear, USA

I saw a comment that "Once again, the international community stands by in idle splendour whilst a nation tears itself apart." This is Catch 22. If the West does not intervene, it's standing idly by, but if it does intervene, it's neo- colonialism. I think it's time we gave up the neurotic fear we have of the past and of our own history. We should start pointing out to the Third World that the West used to have a solution to Third World violence and chaos, and it worked, and it was called "colonialism". If that's what they want again, we should offer it to them.
jon livesey, USA


This incident once again shows the fragility of Indonesia


A. Lordianto, Indonesia

This incident once again shows the fragility of Indonesia. However, I don't think any foreign intervention will be successful. For the best interests of Indonesians, I think the armed forces should get really tough on this incident and thorough investigations should be made.
A. Lordianto, Indonesia

I take it the people calling for the UK and USA to get involved under the banner of the UN are the same ones who were castigating them for their involvement in Iraq?
Gerry, Scotland

In a situation like that, an immediate arrest of the gang leaders would bring an instant end to their shameless behaviour. The sad truth, however, is that they enjoy a great deal of support from the army.
UE, UK/ Nigeria

Given the circumstances that the violence has been going on for weeks and there has been no visible action from the police/ army, I can only conclude that the current government officials are not capable of controlling (or working with) the army.
Michael Kwee, USA

As an Indonesian living in Holland, I'm disgusted (again) by the sheer incompetence of the police and military. First it was East Timor, than it was the Moluccas, now it is Kalimantan. As an Indonesian I demand that the security forces finally start the job they are paid for; the protection of the Indonesian people.
D. Pereira, The Netherlands


Other organizations ought to get involved such as NATO, the EU and the Vatican who claim to champion peace


Tahir Nawab

Given the lack of attention to the dire situation in Borneo by the Indonesian government, its army and its police, the UN should send its forces there to protect the Madurese. Other organizations ought to get involved such as NATO, the EU and the Vatican who claim to champion peace and all that is good and right. But alas, it is in these situations when the hypocrisy of these 'champions of justice' is most apparent. Oddly enough in spite of being painted as horrible demonic terrorists, it is the Muslim men, women and children who are filling the morgues the world over as victims to Jews, Christians and Hindus or the rabid head hunters of Borneo.
Tahir Nawab, USA

Not without massive military intervention. The US isn't intervening and I don't think anyone else has enough military to do it.
Richard T. Ketchum, USA


So much for ethical foreign policy



Sandra Wainwright, England

No one will lift a finger as Indonesia is not within the interest spheres of those who are powerful enough to do anything. Unfortunately, Indonesia will be just a source of frightening documentaries. So much for ethical foreign policy.
Sandra Wainwright, England

To mull over "ifs'" and "buts" is too simple and ineffective. Surely the Indonesian Government should deploy more forces to protect the Madurese!!!!! In the long term, how about educating the Dayak?
Somi, Manchester, UK

Indonesia has proven itself incompetent to govern its own people. The UN, on the other hand, long ago proved itself incompetent to deal with these matters. Something's got to go.
T.J. Cassidy, U.S.A.



I think Indonesia should be broken up




Nicholas Ling


I think Indonesia should be broken up or balkanised to give way to a number of independent states. The present set up is the result of the country's colonial past. It's about time that indigenous rights were taking into account!
Nicholas Ling

Once again, the international community stands by in idle splendour whilst a nation tears itself apart. The regime in Indonesia is either in a state of paralysis or it is intentionally allowing the conflict to develop so as to divert attention from the corruption charges surrounding President Gus Dur.
Frank McKenna, UK

The only way to take Indonesian violence under control is to break the country into natural states or at least form a federation where control of Jakarta is returned to the states and the people inhabiting those states. There are many arguments against this but there is no other way if you know enough of the history of the region.
Miklos Nomad, Hungary

The Indonesian Government should do something. But in fact, what they have done is little. We should stand up against all this violence and a UN peacekeeping force must be brought in.
Celery, China




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27 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
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23 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
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