Village Bloodshed Has Deep Roots: Experts
Village Bloodshed Has Deep Roots: ExpertsA three-day clash between two villages in southern Lampung has left 14 people dead, prompting observers to warn that violence would spread across the country unless the government improves the legal system and alleviates poverty.
On Sunday, a bloody riot erupted in Lampung in which residents of the villages of Arong and Balinuraga attacked each other, leaving four people dead. The fighting escalated on Monday, a day on which six people were killed.
As of Tuesday night, the total number of fatalities had reached 14, police said.
State administration expert Jimly Asshiddiqie said deadly clashes in the past were a result of legal uncertainty and a lack of ethical behavior.
He said changes during the post-Suharto reform era had “seriously failed to establish a system of legal norms and ethics that could actually function. This is why there is disorder and turbulence in almost all sectors of national life.”
He said lack of clean government structures meant many functions of the state had been abandoned while others involved overlaps between different levels of government and different agencies within the one level.
Jimly, a former chairman of the Constitutional Court, said the state needed leaders who were problem solvers.
“But our leaders are only busy with raising their popularity,” said Jimly, adding that issues such as village clashes would continue to haunt the nation.
“This is the reason why people are saying that the state is not present when it is most needed by citizens.”
Gadjah Mada University economist Revrisond Baswir cautioned that fatal fights in places including Poso in Central Sulawesi, Bima in West Nusa Tenggara, Lampung province in Sumatra and Makassar in South Sulawesi resulted from growing social and economic inequity compounded by injustice.
“People at the grassroots level in some parts of the country are living in frustration due to heavy economic pressures on their households. In such a situation, their anger can easily explode uncontrollably,” Revrisond said.
The economist added that social tension was closely linked with social inequity and injustice. Revrisond said the culprit was the government’s economic policies, which was almost entirely oriented toward growth rather than social equity. As a result, he said, the gap between rich and poor widened, creating jealousy among people without wealth.
Sociopolitical analyst Indria Samego agreed, saying that frustration among Indonesians was growing.
“Life is getting harder on many people, injustice is being nakedly displayed everywhere, the government’s security guarantee and legal protection are very scarce while uncertainty grows higher day by day,” he said.
Samego said people were becoming materialistic and hedonistic and that communal respect was perceived as old fashioned. He added that the role of the state was more geared toward transactional activities, rather than finding ways to remove people’s frustrations.
The analyst said Indonesia needed stronger national leadership that could solve problems and set good examples for society. He said leaders needed to impartially uphold the rule of law and behave ethically while improving public welfare.
North Sumatra Senator Rachmat Syah said that villagers were easily frustrated because they could not find solutions for their myriad economic problems.
He said it was easy for powerful people to get what they wanted but it was difficult for villagers to find justice when they dealt with public institutions.
While that happens, villagers witness blatant arrogance and an exhibition of wealth by rich people that hurt their sense of fairness, Rachmat added.
When people are grappling with a heavy economic burden and becoming frustrated, they can easily explode in anger, he said.
“More so when they hear top officials’ speeches that tend to simplify serious painful problems being felt on the lower walks of life. Such speeches anger them, and that is why horizontal clashes are so common,” Rachmat said, referring to violence among people of the same social strata.
To solve this, Rachmat proposed that the government establish sport centers and recreational facilities such as zoos and parks in villages across the country, so that people could find an escape from their frustration.
State administration scientist Margarito Kamis said that administrative reform at the district, subdistrict and village levels had not yet been completed. That meant there was a communication gap between the bureaucracy and ordinary people.
“The bureaucracy relies on instructions and this creates dissatisfaction among people. So the government itself creates a system that erodes people’s trust instead of building a social structure through which people’s aspirations are heard,” Margarito said.
Meanwhile, cultural expert Radar Panca Dahana said that the culture of hedonism and materialism had permeated society so deeply that material competition had become a source of tension in all walks of life.
“But people are not to blame for this, he said. “What is happening is the result of the system consciously chosen by the government, especially the political elite.
“So we need to be aware of the possibility of such deadly conflict being directed at fulfilling the interests of certain unseen players who may be pursuing political or economic goals. The X factor is common in such cases.”
Radar stressed that the state must provide the answer because the worsening situation was the result of its own decisions.
“Even the state itself has now fallen victim to its own choice of nation building. Economic, political and ideological conspiracies have performed amputations on many state institutions,” Radar said.
Benny Susetyo, another cultural expert, said the government needed to find a quick solution to people’s growing frustrations otherwise clashes like the one in Lampung could escalate.
He blamed a lack of social order and disrespect for legal norms on the absence of the authority of the law.
“Indonesians need leaders that will listen to people’s voices, leaders that are communicative with the people,” he said.
“But our leaders do not care to listen. There isn’t even any sense of urgency to map out the problems and find the root causes.”