. February 27, 2001 Compiled By Trinicenter News

Indonesian Borneo's on-going ethnic conflict

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Indonesia's national motto is
"Bhinneka tunggal" or "unity in diversity".

Indonesia press confirmed on Tuesday, Native Dayak fighters attacked and massacred at least 118 migrants traveling under police escort. Security forces called in to quell the ethnic violence instead turned their guns on each other.

The death toll after 10 days of violence stood Tuesday at 428 people, mostly Madurese migrants some beheaded and with their hearts cut out, in keeping with ancient Dayak traditions of warfare.

The Dayaks are a largely non-Muslim population who inhabit the interior of Borneo Island. The Madurese are strict Muslims, who arrived in large numbers in the 1960s from the island of Madura as part of a government-ordered relocation program known as transmigrasi.

Over the past 40 years, more than 100,000 Madurese have resettled in Kalimantan on Borneo island from their island of Madura. This Suharto government's program was designed to place their supporters in areas populated by native Dayaks. Relations soured when Dayaks complained of discrimination in education and job opportunities. The first major clash occurred in 1997 in West Kalimantan province, when about 3,000 people were killed.

"Bhinneka tunggal" or "unity in diversity" is Indonesia's national motto which was coined by the leaders of the new Republic in 1945.

Half a century of being part of an independent Indonesia has not led to a stronger sense of national identity across the more than 13,000 islands that make up the archipelago, many forces still pulling the country apart.

Dutch colonisation began in the 17th century with the creation of the Dutch East India Company.

It was spices which attracted European traders to the small collection of islands in what is now Eastern Indonesia. The Dutch monopolised the trade and from there expanded their influence - largely through indirect rule - across the collection of independent sultanates and principalities which made up the region then.

Relative political stability under the Dutch was only achieved at the beginning of this century.

It was Indonesians themselves who were left to confront the problem of how to unify a country of more than 250 ethnic groups, whose experience of the Dutch varied from region to region.

The Dayaks are the indigenous people of Kalimantan, and the Madurese are the settlers from the island of Madura, which is just off the coast of East Java. They were transplanted to the area by the government as part of a resettlement program, the objective of which is to thin out the overpopulated areas of Indonesia, particularly Madura and Java.

The Madurese were brought into Kalimantan to boost the industry of the area. The Madurese have become commercially successful which heightened resentment between the Dayak's and the Madurese.

Traditionally the Dayaks were considered head hunters. However, when the Christian missionaries came in, the practice was discouraged and has been suppressed.

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