Kalimantan (Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity)
Instances of mass murder and gross human rights violations in Kalimantan, Indonesia and the processes underlying them are multiple and complex. Government authorities have always placed a greater value on the island's vast natural resources than on its sparse population, whose exceedingly diverse indigenous peoples have been reduced to the collective label Dayak. State-building on the island by central government authorities predates the New Order regime (1966998). But it was not until 1966, when General Suharto assumed the presidency, that a government based in Jakarta and backed by Western allies acquired sufficient financial and governmental capacities to penetrate the island systematically. In late 1967, such state intrusion into the province of West Kalimantan instigated horrific bloodshed. Suharto's military officers, in an effort to wipe out a local communist rebellion, used indigenous "warrior" Dayaks to expunge ethnic Chinese from the region's heartland. Thousands were killed, and tens of thousands were forced to relocate to coastal urban locales where they could be controlled, monitored, and governed.
On the heels of this counterinsurgency campaign, New Order authorities enacted a series of policies with ethnocidal implications for Dayak peoples. Foremost was land dispossession, which was facilitated by the rapacious extraction of natural resources. The mega-scale forestry concessions held by foreign and Jakarta-based companies ran roughshod over traditionally held, indigenous lands. Soon thereafter vast tracts of land, for which Dayaks were given little to no compensation, were converted into palm oil plantations. These land-clearing practices significantly contributed to the island's massive forest fires during the period 1982 to 1993 and in 1997. Experts have calculated the consequent economic ruin, let alone the social costs, to total hundreds of millions of dollars. Meanwhile, the denuding of hills due to deforestation has silted rivers and killed once abundant fish supplies, thereby further threatening rural livelihoods.
State authorities also forced "backward" and "primitive" Dayaks, whose beliefs were belittled as mere superstitions, to convert to Islam or Christianity. Putatively, this was done to insulate these communities from communist influences. Meanwhile, to inculcate feelings of loyalty to the Indonesian Republic and to assimilate Dayaks into mainstream society, compulsory state education prohibited the teaching of local languages and histories.
Similarly destructive to Dayak cultural identity and welfare was the transfer by Suharto's regime of hundreds of thousands of families from overcrowded Java (951 people per sq. km. according to a 1999 estimate) to a number of sparsely populated outer islands, including Kalimantan (21 people per sq. km.). Known as transmigration, this program precipitated significant demographic changesor instance, the increased Islamization of the island.
Abundantly funded by the World Bank and other international donors, transmigration has contributed to the general marginalization and attendant frustrations of Dayaks. They justifiably fear becoming minorities in their homeland. Despite the transmigration program's many ills, however, it cannot be held exclusively to blame for Kalimantan's infamous anti-migrant riots of the late 1990s.
The origins of this form of communal violence anticipate the arrival of transmigrants under the New Order, although the international community and media did not take notice of the bloodletting until the massive episodes of 1997 and 1999. In West Kalimantan, Dayaks and migrant Madurese (from East Java) first came to blows in late 1967 and early 1968 over lands from which the Chinese had been expelled. Minor, intermittent riots continued in this same area. Authorities, however, did not earmark the province as an official transmigrant destination until 1973. Madurese also rarely participated in such governmentsponsored programs. Instead, they have migrated in large part on their own, a phenomenon known as spontaneous migration. Furthermore, early resettlement sites were located in areas unaffected by this periodic bloodletting. Finally, the dynamics of transmigration can hardly explain the first major Dayak-Madurese clash in the neighboring province of Central Kalimantan in early 2001. This riot led to the thorough expulsion of tens of thousands of Madurese from the province.
More informed accounts for the violence point to local political reasons. Here, attempts of local Dayak elites to capture lucrative gains from Indonesia's decentralization program were pivotal. Enacted in the post-Suharto state, decentralization transfers substantial financial and administrative authority to the regional governments. It thus represents a treasure trove for the elites who control local bureaucracies and legal and illegal economic networks and activities. Fortunately, South and East Kalimantan provinces, areas also home to transmigration sites, have remained free of similar instances of collective violence.
SEE ALSO Indigenous Peoples; Indonesia
Davidson, Jamie (2003). "The Politics of Violence on an Indonesian Periphery." South East Asian Research 11, (1):599.
Van Klinken, G. (2002). "Indonesia's New Ethnic Elites." In Indonesia: In Search of Transition, eds. Henk Schulte Nordholt and Irwan Abdullah. Yogyakarta, Indonesia: Pustaka Pelajar.
Jamie S. Davidson