Kalimantan Fuel Shortage Conflict Prompts Locals to Flee
West Kutai, East Kalimantan. Businesses in the West Kutai subdistrict of Barong Tongkok remained closed on Monday after several days of communal violence sparked by a fuel shortage.
“We are still afraid to open our shop, we are traumatized by the conditions. We want to live in peace without unrest and conflict. I have kept my kiosk closed for a few days now,” Aji Syamsuddin, a resident of Barong Tongkok, said on Monday.
Since Sunday morning, hundreds of market stalls were destroyed in a rampage following what police say was a dispute between a service station attendant and an irate customer told there was no fuel left.
Aji said that the conflict had prompted thousands of residents to flee the subdistrict to stay with friends or relatives in the provincial capital Samarinda or elsewhere in the district.
“There are many ships coming and going and so many people waiting at the harbor as they could not get seats on board the ships. The number of ships are not enough given the number of passengers,” he said.
West Kutai district chief Ismail Thomason said that he has confronted the families of the victims and the assailants and clinched a peace pact.
“We cannot yet apply the customary law as there are still a number of individuals who are engaging in provocation. We will settle this case as soon as possible,” he said.
He called on all elements of the society, including public, religious and organizational leaders, to abide by the agreed peace pact. The police, he said, should also be firm in enforcing the law and order.
“We hope that the people will not… worsen the situation,” he said.
East Kalimantan Deputy Governor Farid Wajdu said that the violence in Barong Tongkok was caused by a fuel shortage, and the governors of the four Kalimantan provinces have been invited to convene talks about the fuel shortage.
“The [East Kalimantan] governor has invited all governors in Kalimantan to talk about the commitment of state oil and gas company Pertamina regarding the fuel quota for Kalimantan, because this is related to the conflict in West Kutai,” Farid said.
In Samarinda, Governor Yurnalis Ngayoh gathered 50 tribal leaders to help solve the communal conflict.
Since the early hours of Sunday, 400 market stalls and a gas station building burned to the ground in Barong Tongkok.
Police say the violence was allegedly prompted by an altercation between a customer and a gas station attendant. The customer started an argument when informed there was no fuel left. The attendant apparently hit the customer, who returned later with fellow villagers and laid the station to ruin.