Less than two weeks ago the struggle by the people of the South Moluccan islands fro independence from Indonesia made little impact on international affairs.
Less than two weeks ago the struggle by the people of the South Moluccan islands fro independence from Indonesia made little impact on international affairs. But on 2 December a group of South Moluccan gunmen hijacked a train in Holland and two days later stormed the Indonesian consulate in Amsterdam. Suddenly, the cause of the islanders sprung into international headlines.
By Saturday (13 December) the gunmen were still holding 52 people hostage 27 on the train in Beilen and 25 in the consulate. In the meantime, the gunmen all members of the radical "Freg Youth South Moluccans" movement in Holland killed three hostages, showing they are in deadly earnest about political demands aimed at obtaining independence."
The Moluccan Islands are in the Western Pacific. In all, there are nearly a thousand of the island in the group. The population is 1.2 million which accounts for 10 per cent of the total population of the Republic of Indonesia. Half are Christian and half are Moslem.
Most is the islands are undeveloped and the people lead a largely subsistence way of life . Many of them live on the coast and survive by fishing and harvesting coconuts. Their staple diet of rice has to be imported from Java or the nearby Celebes (Sulawesi Island).
The capital is Ambon town which has a population of 80,000 and the only university in the island group. Here, there are government facilities, banks, hospitals and a domestic airline link with the Indonesian capital, Djakarta.
Generally, people are poor and there are no signs in the immediate future of this changing. There are few sings of investment or development projects anywhere on the islands.
The South Moluccans' demand for independence is based on a 1950 agreement between Holland and Indonesia the former Dutch East Indies. They claim this gave them the right to independence but that Holland abandoned their cause.
The islanders don't appear to be finding any sympathy in Djakaria, Particularly the gunmen who are holed up in Holland.
Foreign Minister Adam Malik said this week the gunmen's demands were "??? and obsolete "He said the concept of an independent South Moluccas state was obsolete because it has been ignored by the world for three ???."
Indonesia is also putting pressure on the Dutch Government in an attempt to force a more decisive end to the sieges.
On Wednesday (10 December) President Suharto suspended negotiations on a 100 million sterling (200 million US dollars) deal for the purchase of ships and aircraft from Holland.)
Indonesia has said it will make no concessions to the Moluccan guerrillas. They described as ridiculous a guerrilla demand that President Suharto should go to Geneva fro talks with Moluccan exiles on the question of the self-styled "South Moluccas Republic".
SYNOPSIS: Ambon City capital of the South Moluccan Island is one of the only towns in the group of nearly one thousand islands that shows definite signs of the twentieth century. These island, part of the Republic of Indonesia, had virtually been forgotten by the rest of the world. Two weeks ago, this changed.The group of Western Pacific islands hit the headlines when South Moluccan gunmen hijacked a train in Holland and two days later stormed the Indonesian consulate in Amsterdam. By Saturday, they were still holding 52 people hostage. Their cause is one of independence from Indonesia.
The demand for independence is based on an agreement signed thirty years ago by Holland and Indonesia the former Dutch East Indies. The Indonesians have called the claim obsolete and Holland appears to have abandoned the cause. Life on the island continues as before. While Dutch and Indonesian politicians puzzle over the solution to the two sieges in Holland, the people here go about their daily chores in the same way.
Armed police patrol the streets of Ambon but all is quiet. The islanders themselves are poor. Most of them live along the coast and lead a largely subsistence way of life. Their staple diet is rice and this has to be imported from Indonesia or the nearby Celebes Islands.
Nothing very much has changed for years. But there is a growing feeling of unity as the struggle for independence escalates. The gunmen in Holland have already killed three hostages showing that they are in deadly earnest about political demands aimed at obtaining independence.
Many of the South Moluccans survive by fishing. But there are more than a million people in the group and there is an uneasiness about the lack of any technological progress. Another of their activities is harvesting coconuts. There are few signs of investment or development projects anywhere.
A small industry is making sea shell jewellery. It does not provided employment for many. The Indonesian government is showing no sympathy to the independence cause. It is certainly not willing to make any concessions to the gunmen all members of the Free Young South Maluccans movement. At the moment the situation on the islands does not look likely to change. The people's goal of a self-styled South Moluccas Republic may be a long way off.