ad info

 > magazine
 web features
 magazine archive
 customer service
  east asia
  southeast asia
  south asia
  central asia

Other News
TIME Europe
Asiaweek Services
Contact Asiaweek
About Asiaweek
Media Kit
Get up to 3 months of Asiaweek free when you subscribe online!

June 9, 2000 VOL. 29 NO. 22 | SEARCH ASIAWEEK

Editorial: Stop The Mayhem
Wahid must do that in Ambon, before it's too late

Pity Saleh Latuconsina, governor of Indonesia's Maluku province. For 17 of his 30 months in office, Christians and Muslims in Ambon have been at each other's throats. Jakarta and the army failed to end the violence. And, inspired by thoughts of glorious martyrdom, a 2,000-strong "delegation" from Java's Laskar Jihad has turned up, packing automatic weapons. Last week, as the militants turned their guns on Christians, Latuconsina sought a graceful exit from his job. Said he: "It's been two-and-a-half years, but it feels like 100." It is time that President Abdurrahman Wahid seriously tackled the escalating mayhem in Ambon - before it spirals completely out of control.

In Indonesia, chaos is a trusted political tool. When, after four centuries of peaceful coexistence, Ambonese Christians and Muslims began an internecine war early last year, officials saw the hand of allies of ex-president Suharto. Others accused the army of provoking violence. Yet the apparent trigger for the conflict, which has claimed about 3,000 lives, was a dispute between a Christian bus driver and a Muslim passenger. Riots have since flared intermittently, with increasingly sophisticated arms being used. Christians and Muslims have divided Ambon into armed camps.

Faced with pressing problems, Wahid did not visit Ambon until he had been president for nearly two months. He urged the Ambonese to sort out the problem themselves and asked Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri to oversee progress. Meantime, while army and police ranks have been bolstered, a tenth of the 2-million population have lost their homes. Last month aid workers and diplomats flew out, unable to continue their work safely, and the new province of North Maluku is quickly being drawn into the mess.

The emotional flames were irresponsibly fanned in Jakarta when Amien Rais, head of the People's Consultative Assembly, led rallies there by claiming Islam was under threat. But while his "eye-for-an-eye" rhetoric alienated many, he made an important point: government leaders must take responsibility for what is going on. Killings in Ambon are reported but go unheeded - as if the nation has decided the fire will eventually burn itself out. That's a dangerous assumption. As president, Wahid must take the lead on problems that seem unsolvable. Because if no one does, unsolvable they will remain.

Wahid should have heard the wake-up call when his orders to prevent the Laskar Jihad from reaching Ambon were ignored. His army strategic reserve chief just shrugged, claiming there was no proof the Muslim force was making the situation worse. As ultimate commander of the military (which he has not entirely domesticated), Wahid must now move decisively and evenhandedly to disarm the antagonists. He must send the jihad opportunists home and generate a lasting peace. Or the little war with no name may turn into a larger test of the country's hard-won democracy. And Wahid's Indonesia may not pass.

Write to Asiaweek at

This edition's table of contents | Home


Quick Scroll: More stories from Asiaweek, TIME and CNN


U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

Thai party announces first coalition partner


COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state


COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness

Launch CNN's Desktop Ticker and get the latest news, delivered right on your desktop!

Today on CNN
Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Korea: Countdown to the Seoul-Pyongyang summit -- what the parties hope to achieve, and what it means for the big powers
Enterprise: The business of reuniting families
Expectations: What ordinary people think -- and feel

Jet Set: The wired world may have its charms, but hang up the mouse and do some real -- not virtual -- trekking
Celebrities: Where some big names have a great time
Glory Days: The discreet charms of Asia's landmark hotels

Regional Security: As China and the U.S. square off strategically, the lack of cooperation between Asian nations may make them pawns in the game
Arms Race: Control argreements are close to breaking
Escalation: What the future holds for the region
Who's Got What, Where: A map of the military situation

PHILIPPINES: A nation adrift

SINGAPORE: Dealing with AIDS -- and with gays

Interview: Lee Kuan Yew on where Asia is headed

Viewpoint: Banning child soldiers

Health: A series of mixed signals over cellphone dangers

Newsmakers: China and India sit down to business

The Net: Saving money with e-procurement

Cutting Edge: Bill Gates in cute fluffy ducky shock

Cyberscrapers: Hong Kong's IT companies are clustering all over the city. Is the $1.7-billion Cyber-Port really needed?

IPO Watch: Postponements in Singapore cool Internet fever

Investing: Reading Asia's skittish stock markets

Business Buzz: Are Hyundai's problems over?

Megatrend: Don't look now, but a community of East Asian nations is starting to take shape

Indonesia: Jakarta must tackle Ambon's intensifying mayhem

Question of pace in Singapore

This week's news round-up by country

The Bottom Line: Asiaweek's ranking of world economies, now online

Monitor: Where to stash those illicit billions

Back to the top   © 2000 Asiaweek. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.