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Tuesday, 27 February, 2001, 16:05 GMT
Indonesia press anger over Borneo
Panicking refugees board army truck
The army is now helping refugees flee
As the head of Indonesia's National Police, General S Bimantoro, considered whether to impose a state of emergency in the province of Central Kalimantan, Indonesian newspapers were fiercely critical of the authorities' inaction when ethnic violence erupted.

There is still no sign that the ethnic turmoil that is threatening to tear apart this nation's unity is about to end

Jakarta Post
"In several areas in the city, police stood helpless as they watched the rioting," The Jakarta Post's editorial wrote.

"This only illustrates the low esteem and the lack of authority which the government suffers at the moment."

"Refugees complained bitterly that security forces had failed to protect them," the online newspaper Mandiri agreed.

Man holding parang
Fleeing Madurese were beheaded with parangs
"Mobs of indigenous Dayaks roamed the streets with knives and other crude weapons, burning, looting and killing with apparent impunity."

The report quoted Suriya Fauzi, a refugee waiting to be evacuated to Surabaya:

"My two children are dead. They cut their heads off. They slaughtered my husband and dragged his body through the streets. The police and army did nothing. They let this happen."

This was not for lack of security forces, Mandiri argued.

"Despite the presence of two joint police and military battalions there is little sign of them on the streets of Sampit. Officials said troops and police had not been given orders to disarm the gangs in Sampit," it added.

The police and army did nothing. They let this happen

News Indonesia said even when several battalions of elite reinforcements were flown into the region, they did little to help.

"Security forces called in to quell ethnic violence instead turned their guns on each other while desperate refugees scrambled to board ships," the internet news service said.

Dayak with parang leaves burning building
The indigenous people went on the rampage
"At least two policemen were injured in a brief exchange of fire with army soldiers in the crowded port area of Sampit town."

The Jakarta Post thought that whatever action President Abdurrahman Wahid may finally have taken, it might not be enough.

"Pressured from all sides to start acting decisively in order to save the country from disintegrating - and his own government from collapsing - President Abdurrahman Wahid may finally have been persuaded to act with some measure of resolution."

"The problem is whether the state apparatus is ready to follow," the Post wrote. It saw little cause for optimism.

"There is still no sign that the ethnic turmoil that is threatening to tear apart this nation's unity is about to end."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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