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Ambon: The Civil War

By Max B. Surjadinata

ICCF (Indonesian Christian Communication Forum)


It was known as a spice island; that was Ambon before January 19, 1999. Ambon and the surrounding islands were hit by a devastating civil war on January 19, 1999. Even though Ambon has been known as a Christian-pocket region in Indonesia, the Muslims in Ambon had been living in peace and harmony with the Christians. This peace and harmony of life were ended in irreparable damage on January 19, 1999. The Ambonese refused to call the incident a riot; rather they insisted on calling it a civil war.

The war was started by a silly incident. It was a local domestic small incident, a fight or quarrel between a taxi driver and a Muslim Ambonese. Sources indicated very strongly that the incident was used by provocateurs to start a massive destruction all over Ambon and even to the surrounding islands. This kind of pattern seems to be repeating from case to case; a small local incident becomes a big and uncontrollable incident that collapses the whole community. We could see the pattern in the cases of Ketapang, Kupang and Poso. (The Poso case was not covered by Media; around Christmas of 1998 incidents in Central Sulawesi that hit towns of Poso, Palu and Palopo were very devastating as well). Sources even suggested very strongly that the provocateurs had been mobilized by Soeharto and his gang.

The Ambon case is very devastating; the first list of casualties is attached on Exhibit 1. Since then people live in fear and terror in Ambon, and small incidents took place here and there. On February 14, 1999 another serious incident took place. Christians in Kariu of the island of Haruku were attacked by people from Pelauw, Kailolo and Ori. People from those three places are mainly Muslims. According to eyewitnesses and the investigation of the fact finding team of the Salawaku Team, the 14 February incident was even worse, for the following reasons:

  1. Right before the attack the post commando for the security force, which was to maintain peace at the border of Pelauw and Kariu, was relocated to some other place..
  2. The Commando of the military post Yon 733, Mr. Safar Latuamuri (who is also from Pelauw), took with him some other officers and the people from those villages and attacked the people in Kariu.

Following is the list of the casualties from that attack:

NO. NAME CAUSE STATUS
1. Yohanis Radjawane Shot by officer Death
2. Dominggus Tupalessy Shot by officer Death
3. Elly Pattinasarany Burned inside house Death
4. Dolly Takaria Burned inside house Death
5. Polly Nanlohi Shot by officer Serious Injury
6. Atja Pattiasina Shot by officer Serious Injury
7. Hengky Siahaya Shot by officer Minor Injury
8. Yohanis Noya Shot by officer Minor Injury
9. Izack Noya Shot by officer Minor Injury
10. Salakory Shot by officer Minor Injury
11. Yopy Kilanresy Shot by officer Minor Injury
12. Corinus Laisina Shot by officer Minor Injury
13. Agusthinus Siahaya Shot by officer Minor Injury
14. Lamberh Noya Shot by officer Minor Injury
15. Max Noya Shot by officer Minor Injury
16. Ruka Birahi Shot by officer Minor Injury
17. Bominngus Taihutu Shot by officer Minor Injury
18. Dominggus Noya Shot by officer Minor Injury
19. Dominggus Pattirajawane Shot by officer Minor Injury
20. Abraham Hahury Shot with arrow Minor Injury
21. Marthinus Metehelemual Shot with arrow Minor Injury
22. Hanny Lewerissa Shot with arrow Minor Injury
23. Karel Radjawane Shot with arrow Minor Injury
24. Dominggus Pattiasina Bomb explosion Minor Injury
25. Ronny Lalopua Bomb explosion Minor Injury
26. Jacob Pattiradjawane Shot with arrow Minor Injury
27. Johanis Pattiradjawane Shot with arrow Minor Injury
28. Rudy Wattimena Shot with arrow Minor Injury
29. Wellem Riry Shot with arrow Minor Injury
30. Izaack Nahusona Shot with arrow Minor Injury
31. Semuel Radjawane Shot with arrow Minor Injury


3. Houses and even a church (which was already under the protection of the peace keeping military force) were allowed to be burned to the ground..

4. The peace keeping military officers were also involved in the brutal shooting of the people from Hulaliu who came over in a rush to help the injured in Kariu.

Following is the list of the casualties from the Hulaliu village:

NO. NAME CAUSE STATUS
1. Marthen Tahapary Death Death
2. Janes Leiwakabessy Death Death
3. Agus Noya Death Death
4. Frangky Tanate Death Death
5. Christian Noya Shot by officer Serious Injury
6. Marthinus Taihutu Shot by officer Serious Injury
7. Jacob Noya Shot by officer Serious Injury
8. Chres Noya Shot by officer Serious Injury
9. Jusuf Birahi Shot by officer Serious Injury
10. Ronny Huka Shot by officer Serious Injury
11. Donny Noya Shot by officer Serious Injury
12. Duan Noya Shot by officer Serious Injury
13. Stevy Noya Shot by officer Serious Injury
14. Julius Kainama Shot by officer Serious Injury
15. Jopie Laisina Shot by officer Serious Injury
16. Elianus Siahaya Shot by officer Minor Injury
17. Bram Noya Shot by officer Minor Injury
18. Thopilus Noya Shot by officer Minor Injury
19. Simon Werinussa Shot by officer Minor Injury


On February 21 and 22, 1999, Monday and Tuesday, in the island of Saparua, the people from Siri Sori Islam and the people from Siri Sori Serani (Christian) broke into a fight; so did the people from Iha (Muslim) and Nolloth (Christian). There were 3 deaths in Nolloth and 1 person whose arm had to be amputated as a result of a shot by an officer.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, February 22, 1999, in the city of Ambon, riot broke out again. A bomb was set at Batu Merah Dalam. Houses belonging to Christians were set on fire. The security officer did not do anything when people started to attack the Christians. So far there were 6 people shot to death by the security officers, and three of them were shot by the security officers while they were inside the gate of the Bethabara Church in Batu Merah Dalam. Christians in Batu Merah Dalam had to escape for refuge.

Despite the headlines in the media - Christians slaughter Muslim in Ambon - the opposite seems to be true. However, the more sickening and concerning issue has been the behavior of the military officers. They were not only not doing anything, they would actually be the ones involved in the attacks and the shootings. This kind of behavior and performance by the military is not only unacceptable, but also has once again proven the loss of control and authority in the military unit as a whole, even from the top commando of Gen. Wiranto.

According to eyewitnesses, one of the officers who was involved in the shooting in Batu Merah Dalam was a police officer - Mr. Cahyana.

Following is the list of casualties in Ambon on February 23-24, 1999.

NO. NAME CAUSE STATUS
1. Jacob de Lima Shot by officer Death
2. Rudy Hehatubun Shot by officer Death
3. E. Telussa Shot by officer Death
4. Marthin Manukelle Shot by officer Death
5. Anthon Lopulalan Shot by officer Death
6. F. Hitipeuw Shot by officer Death


Persecutions against Christians, which were done in a very subtle way during the Soeharto era, have turned more blatant and vicious during the Habibie era with the Indonesian government in transition.. According to the report of the ICCF (Indonesian Christian Communication Forum) there were 455 churches attacked and burned during the Soeharto era, and there have been minimum of 95 churches attacked and burned during the Habibie era which is only less than a year. The force of fundamentalism which has been riding its way behind Habibie, starting from the formation of ICMI (The Association of Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals) in the early 1990s, has been showing its vicious teeth since the May, 1998 Riot. Despite the clear pattern of similarities among the incidents, ever since the June 9, 1996 Surabaya case and then followed by the October 10, 1996 Situbondo case, the government and the military have not been able to bring a total and absolute justice to the citizens of Indonesia by identifying and prosecuting the masterminds behind all of these incidents. The lack of will and capability from the government and the military has resulted in the weakening of their authority domestically and internationally, which should be expected when a government is not serving the people whom they are supposed to serve..

Report prepared by:
Hengky Hattu - Yayasan Sala Waku Maluku
Kie-eng Go - Texas-USA

Exhibit 1.

The list of casualties from the Ambon case, January 15-28, 1999.

  1. The Nehemiah Church, Bethaba Congregation (Maluku Protestant Church) in Batu Merah Village was plundered, destroyed. The interior of the church was burned (60% destroyed).
  2. The Source of Love Church, Silo Congregation (Maluku Protestant Church) in Silale-Waihaong Village was burned to the ground (100% destroyed).
  3. The Bethlehem Church on Anthony Rhibok Street was stoned (20% destroyed).
  4. The Tua Hila Church in Hila Christian Village (the oldest church in Ambon) was burned (100% destroyed).
  5. The Petra Protestant Church, Petra Congregation (Maluku Protestant Church) in Benteng Karang Ambon Village was burned (100% destroyed).
  6. The Logos Catholic Church in Benteng Karang Village was burned (100% destroyed).
  7. The Assembly of God Church in Benteng Karang Village was burned (100% destroyed).
  8. The Maranatha Chruch in Negri Lama Village was burned (100% destroyed).
  9. The Hanwele Church at Nania Village was burned (100% destroyed).
  10. The Maluku Protestant Church (GPM) in Paporu-Piru Village, West Seram was burned (100% destroyed).
  11. A Catholic Church in Paporu-Piru Village, West Seram was burned (100% destroyed).
  12. The Assembly of God Church (GSJA) in Paporu-Piru Village, West Seram was burned (100% destroyed).
  13. The Protestant Church, Sanana Congregation (GPM) in Sanana Village was burned (100% destroyed).
  14. The Catholic Church, Sanana Congregation (GPM) in Sanana Village was burned (100% destroyed).
  15. The Indonesian Bethel Church, Sanana Congregation in Sanana Village was burned (100% destroyed)

The list of the parish houses and schools which were damaged and burned down by the mob during the riots in Ambon on 15 through 28 January 1999:

  1. The home of a GPM's pastor at Congregation/Hila Village (burned).
  2. The home of a GPM's pastor at Congregation/Benteng Karang Village (burned).
  3. The home of a GPM's pastor at Congregation/Nania Village (burned).
  4. The home of a GPM's pastor at Congregation/Negeri Lama Village (burned).
  5. The home of a GPM's pastor at Sanana's Congregation (burned).
  6. The parish house (the home of RK's pastor) at Sanana's Congregation (burned).
  7. A Catholic School at Sanana (burned).

The list of Mosques that were damaged and/or burned down by the mob during the riots in Ambon on 15 through 28 January 1999:

  1. The Al Huda Mosque at Upper Diponegoro Street was burned (12% destroyed).
  2. The As Sa'adah Pule Mosque at Karang Panjang Street was totally burned down.
  3. The Al Ikhlas Mosque at Raya Pattimura Street inside the Pos Alley was damaged (20% destroyed).
  4. The Al Ikhwan Mosque at Mardika Market was totally burned down.
  5. The An-Nur Mosque at Sangaji Street was damaged by the mob (20% destroyed).
  6. The At-Taqwa Mosque in the Village of Batu Gajah/Batu Bulan was burned (60% destroyed).
  7. The Al Ikhlas Mosque at Jati's Complex Batu Gong was damaged (50% destroyed).
  8. The Kati Complex mosque at Batu Gong was damaged (20% destroyed).
  9. The Wisma Atlit Complex mosque at Karang Panjang was damaged (20% destroyed).
  10. The mosque at corporation regional office was damaged (20% destroyed).
  11. The Al Mukhlisin mosque at Karang Baringin-Batu Gantung was damaged (40% destroyed).
  12. The Al Mukharam mosque at Karang Tagepe was damaged (45% destroyed).
  13. The Transmigration regional office's mosque was damaged (20% destroyed).
  14. The Kopertis Ahuru Complex mosque at Ahuru village was damaged (20% destroyed).
  15. The TVRI Complex mosque at Gunung Nona was damaged (40% destroyed).
  16. The Nurul Hijrah Nania mosque at Nania village was burned (50% destroyed).
  17. The Labuhan Batu mosque at Labuhan Batu village was damaged (40% destroyed).
  18. The Al Muhajirin mosque at Paso village was burned (60% destroyed).
  19. The Jamiatul Islamiah mosque at Galala village was burned (50% destroyed).
  20. The Wailete mosque at Hative Besar village was burned (65% destroyed).
  21. The Prayer room in the complex of SMUN 7 Wailete at Hative Besar village was damaged (60% destroyed).
  22. The Galala prayer room at Galala village was burned (50% destroyed).
  23. The Nurul Haq prayer room at Dobo village at Maluku Tenggara was damaged (20% destroyed).

Data about the schools that were damaged and/or burned down at the disturbances in Ambon, January 15-28, 1999:

  1. The Al-Hilal primary school at Anthony Ribhaok street was burned (100% destroyed).
  2. The public high school of Muhammadiyah Tanah Lapang Kecil (Talake) was damaged (40% destroyed).

February 24, 1999


Data prepared by The ICCF.

E-mail Max B. Surjadinata: max@igc.org

Also of interest: Call for Ambon Partition by Don Greenlees for The Australian, March 5, 1999




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