President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has endorsed the decision by the East Java administration to relocate 235 Shiites from Sampang, Madura Island, to Sidaoarjo, a move that will permanently bar members of the community from returning to their home village.
the decision in a limited Cabinet meeting that was held to respond to a
recent session at the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva, which
criticized the Indonesian government for its failure to protect the Shia
The meeting resulted in an option to permanently
relocate the Shia followers, citing that efforts to help return them to
their home villages could face resistance from local residents.
are two options. The first is to return them to where they belong. This
is possible only if the local residents do not show resistance.
Otherwise, the government would relocate them to some other places in
Madura,” Coordinating Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Minister
Djoko Suyanto said at a press conference after the meeting on Monday.
Djoko said that returning the Shiites to their home villages would be the best solution but it would be impossible to do.
senior minister also said that the government still hoped to return the
Shiites and was now working to start a reconciliation project involving
the local community.
“The reconciliation process is still
underway. A team set up by the East Java provincial administration and
led by Sunan Ampel Islamic State Institute [IAIN] rector Abdul A’la will
help mediate the conflicting parties,” Djoko said.
province secretary Rasiyo, who joined the meeting, said that the team
would also comprise local and religious figures, as well as
representatives from Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah.
said Yudhoyono did not give a deadline for the team to finish the
reconciliation project. “This is a social issue that we can’t predict.”
The Cabinet meeting has also agreed to earmark funds for development projects on Madura island.
Economic Minister Hatta Rajasa said the government had allocated Rp
572.23 billion (US$57.22 million) to help accelerate development in all
four regencies on Madura Island, namely Bangkalan, Sampang, Pamekasan
The funds would be used to construct road, dams, fish farms and irrigation infrastructure.
Cabinet meeting was held on the heels of a session at the UN Human
Rights Committee in Geneva, last week. A number of Indonesian and
international human rights groups raised concerns over the rampant human
rights violations in the country.
Other cases scrutinized in the
session included the 2004 murder of rights activist Munir, the extra
judicial killings in Papua, the 2008 Law on pornography that was deemed
discriminatory against women and the LBGT community, the implementation
of sharia law in Aceh and attacks on Ahmadiyah followers, churches as
well as on a gay film festival.
The activists said that the
government, under Yudhoyono, who just received the World Statesman award
from New York-based interfaith organization the Appeal of Conscience
Foundation (ACF), failed to comply with the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Djoko denied the meeting was held because of the UN’s review. “It’s a regular meeting,” he said.
235 displaced Shiites from 69 families are now temporarily housed in a
modest apartment building in Sidoarjo, East Java. Previously, they had
been sheltered at the Sampang sports hall for 10 months, following a
deadly clash with the Sunni community.
Last month, 10 displaced
Shiites cycled to Jakarta to meet with Yudhoyono to air their grievance.
They were disappointed with their failure to meet Yudhoyono and that
their two-week journey was for nothing.
“You as the head of state
are responsible for our plight. But when we came to State Palace you
did not want to meet us,” the Shiites said in an open letter to
Yudhoyono that was made available to The Jakarta Post on Monday.