"This brutal attack on the Shiite followers reflect the continued failure of the Indonesian government to protect religious minorities from intimidation and attacks and to hold the perpetrators accountable," the Amnesty International stated.
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Various parties including NGOs, politicians, ministers and the president have condemned the latest violence against minority Shiite Muslims on Madura Island, East Java Province.

A mob of hard-line Muslims attacked Shiite community and set their houses on fires in Nangkernang, Karanggayam village, Omben sub- district, Sampang regency, on Sunday, killing two Shiites and injured scores of others.

The attack forced Shiites to flee their villages. At least 50 refugees, all women and children from Omben, were accommodated at the Wijaya Kusuma Sport Hall in Sampang after Sunday`s attack.

Chief of the East Java police Inspector General Hadiatmoko said 37 Shiite houses were set on fire by the mob. The mob using swords and machetes attacked Shiite men trying to protect their women and children, witnesses said.

Hadiatmoko described the arson and the attacks as purely a criminal case. "We will act firmly against the perpetrators," he said.

Police have arrested eight people allegedly involved in the attack. "As of now, seven people have been detained as suspects. Only at a later stage was the mastermind, `R`, arrested. And there are three others who are yet to be arrested. Hopefully, we can get them as soon as possible," National Police Chief General Timur Pradopo said at the Presidential office here on Monday.

He stated that the government was planning to take appropriate and stern legal action in order to prevent such incidents from happening in the future.

"The police have deployed more officers in Sampang with the assistance of the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI). Meanwhile, the legal process is being carried out," Timur stated.

Upon receiving reports about the violence, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called a number of ministers for a meeting and ordered stern punishment against the perpetrators of the violence.

The President stated that heavy punishment would serve as a deterrent to future violence.

He also instructed the East Java authorities to help the victims by providing medical services for the injured and accommodation for those rendered homeless after their houses were burnt down by the attackers.

Earlier, the Sampang district administration said it will pay for all provisions and accommodation of the Shiite refugees.

Yudhoyono expressed regret over the violence against the Shiite Muslim community in Sampang, stating that the incident undermines peace and harmony in the region.

"We regret the incident, and frankly speaking, it negatively affects peace and harmony in our society, particularly in Sampang," he said at his office here on Monday.

The head of state called on religious and community figures to help restore peace and harmony in the area.

The violence in Sampang was not purely a sectarian conflict; it also involved a family feud. President Yudhoyono, however, expressed his commitment to solving the problem and preventing similar incidents from happening again in the future.

Condemning the Sampang violence, earlier Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali stated: "Any violence in whatever form, including in the name of religion or sectarian differences, is unacceptable."

He said Islam taught peace and not violence, adding that the differences of opinions between the two sects - Shiite and Sunni - did exist but could not be used as a justification to commit violence.

"Every problem arising from differences of opinions must be solved through constructive dialogue and with the spirit of brotherhood," Suryadharma went on.

He stated that the problem in Sampang, must also be resolved through talks. Therefore, the minster urged local religious affairs officials in Madura to facilitate the dialogue.

Suryadharma called on all parties to promote tolerance and the spirit of brotherhood among fellow Muslims, Indonesians and human beings.

The violence against the minority sect also triggered a reaction from overseas.

The Amnesty International issued a press statement from London, on Monday, urging that those suspected of involvement must be brought to justice in accordance with international fair trial standards and the authorities must ensure that victims receive reparations.

"This brutal attack on the Shiite followers reflect the continued failure of the Indonesian government to protect religious minorities from intimidation and attacks and to hold the perpetrators accountable," the Amnesty International stated.

As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ICCPR, Indonesia has an obligation to ensure the right to life, security and freedom from torture and other ill-treatment, the Amnesty International stated.

Under Article 2(1) of the ICCPR, such protection must be provided without discrimination including on the basis of religion.

The international NGO called for a prompt, independent and impartial investigation into the violence.

A call for an investigation was also voiced by Indonesia's Justice and Prosperous Party (F-PKS).

"We from F-PKS suggest establishing a fact-finding team to investigate the problem. We must find out the root cause of the problem," PKS politician Hidayat Nurwahid said.

"The incident is surely regretful and F-PKS strongly denounces the melee," Hidayat stated.

Condemnation also came among others from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) and The Association of Indonesian Qoranic Schools Jam`iyah Fida` Kubro.

PDIP Deputy Chairperson Eva Kusuma Sundari said in a statement that the police must find out the perpetrators of the violence and punish them. "Don`t criminalize the victims like what had happened before," she added.

Sinung Karto of Kontras said the attack against the Shiites was clearly a criminal act, and therefore the perpetrators must be held accountable and punished in accordance with the crime they have committed.

Like F-PKS, Kontras also urged the government to adopt anticipatory measures for preventing the possibility of similar attacks taking place again, such as the one that occurred in December 2011.

In fact, President Yudhoyono criticized the local intelligence office in Sampang for failing to anticipate the Sampang incident.

"I consider it [the efforts of intelligence agencies] to be not ideal. If the intelligence, in this case the local intelligence agencies of both the police and the military, had worked properly and appropriately, it [the violence] could have been avoided," he said.

The President noted that a similar incident had happened in December 2011, so the latest attack could have been anticipated.

"I reckon the December 2011 issue was not comprehensively settled," he added, adding that "To handle the problem, the central government and the East Java provincial administration must work in coordination."

Minority Shiite community have been targets of violent attacks and intimidation by mainstream Muslims in Sampang over the past several years, despite the fact that the local police has set up special security posts in the village of Karanggayam and Bluuran, where the Shiite community live.

In December 2011, an anti-Shiite mob attacked a Shiite mosque, an Islamic boarding school, and a house belonging to a local Shiite leader.

More than 200 Shiite followers were moved to safer places, and a joint team of police and military officers was set up to help mediate the conflict.

However, of some 500 people believed to have been involved in the violence, only one person was charged and sentenced to three months imprisonment for the attack last year.

To get first hand information and help find a solution to the conflict, Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi, Law and Human Rights Minister Amir Syamsuddin, National Police Chief General Timur Pradopo, Chief of the National Defense Forces (TNI) Admiral Agus Suhartono, Head of the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) Lt Gen Marciano Norman, and Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali planned to visit Sampang on Monday.

"The President has ordered the allocation of funds, either from the local government or the central government, for the families of the dead victims," Minister Gamawan Fauzi said in Jakarta when announcing the plan to visit Sampang.

The president emphasized earlier that such a violence against minority must be prevented from happening again in the future. (*)

Reporter: Fardah
Editor: Heru Purwanto
Copyright © ANTARA 2012