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9/12/11 Indonesia (Jakarta Globe) – If the sudden eruption of mass violence in Ambon over the weekend seemed sudden, it surprised few analysts, many of whom said it had been waiting to happen.
Najib Azca, from the Center for Security and Peace Studies at Yogyakarta’s Gadjah Mada University, said the latest incident in Ambon, in which at least five people died, was caused by tensions that had long been brewing.
“The last time I went to Ambon was last month, and even then I could see that religious segregation in the community was still obvious,” Najib said.
The violence originated in a simple traffic accident, which swiftly spawned rumors of sectarian conflict that became a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Maluku Islands, of which Ambon is the provincial capital, are still recovering from years of violent unrest that started in 1999 and continued until 2002, killing thousands and displacing many more.
Henny Warsilah, a sociologist at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), said the reconciliation that followed that dark period had failed to reach the grassroots level, where provocation was most likely to occur.

“My sources reported that a growing pluralistic community protected the minorities when the clash broke out,” he said.
Tanwey Gerson Ratumanan, education expert at Pattimura University in Ambon, lost his teenage nephew in the violence. He said peace in Ambon had been fragile. “Even after all these years, the emotional scars are still there. One little provocation and the peace is disrupted,” he said.
Gerson said some locals told him “they were convinced that if they didn’t attack first they would be the victims.”
He said the authorities had failed to provide the people of Ambon with a sense of security.
Henry Sopacua, a spokesman for the Ambon district administration, said the town has been returning to normal after hundreds of police and military personnel were deployed.
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