Muslims ‘were egged on to join election riots’

Wahid points a finger at ‘certain military elements’

MEMBERS of Indonesia’s largest Muslim organisation were provoked repeatedly to get involved in election-campaign riots, the group’s chairman Abdurrahman Wahid has said.

The Nadhlatul Ulama chief told The Straits Times yesterday that “certain military elements” were involved in causing the unrest in NU-based regions but declined to identify them.

“They tried to provoke NU members because they wanted to discredit me and my organisation,” he said.

“Some of the riots were rigged as could be seen by molotov cocktails thrown in some NU-based regions in order to provoke the members’ anger,” he said, referring to incidence of unrest in Surabaya, Ujung Pandang and Banjarmasin. He said NU members had also received provocative letters via the Internet.

Mr Wahid said he would leave for east Java yesterday because he anticipated more problems there. “I want to ensure that they will not be incited by further provocation,” he said.

The Indonesian armed forces (Abri) chief of socio-political affairs, Lieutenant-General Syarwan Hamid, last week dismissed any notion that the military was behind the recent riots, saying such allegations were “naive and illogical”. Instead he said the banned People’s Democratic Party was behind the unrest.

MEANWHILE, Indonesia correspondent Susan Sim reports from Banjarmasin: The ruling Golkar party yesterday countered rumours that it provoked Friday’s day of rage here by campaigning during the Muslim prayer hour.

The riots claimed 123 lives and injured scores when angry Muslims torched and looted buildings.

Although upbeat that the riots might turn out to be a “blessing in disguise” as fear of the violence usually associated with the Muslim-oriented United Development Party (PPP) swung voters away from it and towards Golkar, secretary-general Din Syamsuddin told The Straits Times:

“The fact is that one mad man went round and round the mosque on his motorbike making noise that day.”

Although he conceded that the man was dressed in Golkar’s yellow, he suggested that anti-establishment elements were behind the rampage.

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