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Black Bat

The Christian highland town of Tentena, where the Christian fighters have their stronghold, has become a de facto mini-state. The Indonesian police are not welcome in Tentena, and due to local hostility, the police have been unsuccessful in addressing this situation. Christian vigilantes, armed with makeshift weapons, check cars coming in and out of the town. Tentena is allegedly the base for the "Black Bats", so-called ninja raiders who have allegedly been the perpetrators of some of Poso's worst violence.

The Indonesian government's response to the inter-communal violence raging through Central Sulawesi has been extremely limited. Exacerbating the issue were statements by former President Wahid, who exhorted Poso citizens to handle the matter for themselves. The government's explicit disavowal of its mission to protect and defend its citizens may question the likelihood of an active role of the government in the on-going conflict.

However, while the military has done very little to prevent violence in the region, some communities have claimed that the police have attempted intervention, albeit unsuccessfully. Police intervention, when it has occurred, has not been neutral, as government units have sided with Muslims on occasion when defending against attacks by Christian Black Bats.

Some have suggested that, in addition to its partiality, the authorities seem to believe that intervention may in fact only inflame the problems, as opposed to resolving them. Such was the case when the Palu District Court sentenced three "Black Bat" commanders to death, sparking another wave of riots.

Emerging from such sentiments, among other things, has been the recent proposal by authorities to implement customary law over legalistic measures as a means of solution. Inspired by the notion that the customs of traditional culture, which did in fact house amiable relations between Christians and Muslims for decades, can best alleviate the inter-religious problems in Poso, the House of Representatives (MPR) in Jakarta proposed in August 2001 that customary law be used to settle disputes.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 15:40:30 ZULU