Tempo May 04 - May 10, 2004
Alex Manuputty: "Just Hold a Referendum"
IT was springtime in California when Alex Manuputty first witnessed television reports about violent riots in Ambon. He was, after all, a resident of California, USA, and as such was unable to attend the raising of the flag of the Republic of South Maluku this year. Yet, as founder of the Maluku Sovereignty Front on June 15, 2001 Alex had institutionalized the flag-raising practice which he began in the garden of his Kudamati, Ambon home. He celebrated the first commemoration on April 25 the following year. "It was just a moral movement, not a revolt," he repeatedly said.
When violence again struck Ambon last week during that commemoration, Alex was able to witness it only from afar. TEMPO reporter Akmal Nasery Basral interviewed Manuputty, who was born in Serui, Papua, 55 years ago, by telephone last Friday.
The Maluku Sovereignty Front has been charged with being behind the recent violence. What do you say?
I have been following developments in Ambon from television news reports. The charge that we caused the riots is untenable. We were just commemorating the April 25 Proclamation, just like previous years. We raised the flag peacefully and we read the proclamation text. This is a moral movement without violence. It's not like the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) in Aceh which is armed and actively opposes the Indonesian government. Yet we are the ones always being pressured by the government. If our moral movement is described as rebels, how would one describe GAM?
The fact is, that commemoration triggered violence in Ambon?
That's the logic formed by Jakarta. Did the violence take place during the commemoration? No. We were trapped and all know who did it. The role of the army and the police is significant here. Why did the authorities act the way they did to civilians?
Three Brimob (Police Mobile Brigade) members who had just landed in Ambon were immediately shot by snipers. That meant the authorities were victims too...
It was not only the Brimob who were victims. There were pregnant mothers, mothers nursing their babies. It was tragic. And whose work was that? Who was the sniper?
Why must maintaining the unity of the Indonesian Republic claim so many civilian victims, innocent citizens? What logic is that?
But isn't that kind of flag-raising forbidden?
Who forbade it?
The government prohibited it.
That's how the Indonesian government works, always with bans. We are a moral movement, a peaceful movement. We do not carry weapons, so why ban us?
Permadi from PDI-P said that supporters of the Republic of South Maluku should be arrested, even shot, not taken to the police station on foot. Do you agree?
This puzzles me too. Before, our supporters used to be taken by truck to the police station. Why now on foot? What do they want to prove by it? It seems intentional to trap us.
Are you still communicating with Moses Tuanakota (Executive Secretary-General of the Maluku Sovereignty Front, arrested by police-Ed.)?
Just through other friends. I am unable to contact Moses directly. But I know detailed developments, even if it isn't through Moses.
Is the issue of the Republic of South Maluku getting a lot of positive response from the people
Let's say this. Lets do away with diplomacy, negotiations and such things. They are just a waste of time. Just hold a referendum, let the people speak out and vote. That's more effective. Why is the government afraid of doing that? Why can the government do that with East Timor but not for the people of Maluku?
Are you certain such an option will be accepted by the government?
The Indonesian government should be more serious about what is happening in Ambon. Many civilians were killed. Don't just think about the elections, legislature candidates or who will be president. If the Ambon case is allowed to go on endlessly, and continue to attract international attention, observers will arrive there and the government will lose out. With a referendum, the problem of Maluku will be solved comprehensively.
Which presidential candidate is capable of accommodating such aspirations for a referendum? Do you expect certain persons to win?
I don't know. Whoever becomes president must think seriously about referendum and not always blame the Front for problems in Ambon, when there's clear evidence that it's the fault of the Indonesian government.