[Jakarta, 31 January 2024] The employment of dozens of former extremist prisoners and ex-combatants from Poso in the nickel mining industry in Morowali, Central Sulawesi could pose a risk if social conflict erupts in the area and the former militants are pressured to take sides. The best guarantee against re-radicalisation of these individuals is for the companies operating in the Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park (IMIP) to guard against rising tensions by promoting cross-ethnic activities, improving health and safety conditions, guaranteeing pay equity, and not suppressing worker complaints.
“Ex-Militants in the Nickel Mining Industry in Central Sulawesi”, the latest report from the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), notes that some 40 former ex-prisoners and combatants from Poso are involved as security guards or smelter workers in IMIP or are part of a network supplying diesel to businesses, including mining companies, that they buy at a subsidised price and sell at a mark-up. Many of these men were associated with Mujahidin Kompak from the Kayamanya neighbourhood of Poso. There are also former members of Mujahidin Indonesia Timur (MIT). Most are only interested in making money, not causing trouble, and some who have renounced violence could even be in a position to play a constructive role in mediating conflict. But as ethnic tensions and protests at unsafe working conditions rise within IMIP, others among the ex-prisoners could be drawn in.
“If the government truly wants to ensure that the former prisoners stay disengaged from violence,” says Siswo Mulyartono, an IPAC researcher, “they need to ensure that the mining industry around IMIP is better managed.”
The report notes that of all the problems at IMIP, the rise in ethnic tensions probably carries the most risk of escalating into violence, and there already have been several clashes. Those involving mainland Chinese and local workers have attracted media attention, but the more dangerous problem is the hardening of ethnic identities between local Muslims and migrants from Christian areas coming up from Toraja in South Sulawesi, to the point that some workers write their ethnic or religious identity on their hardhats. Thus far the problem has been manageable, mostly because no Muslim has been killed and no mosque damaged in the incidents.
“Given the history of conflict in Poso and Morowali,” says Siswo, “everyone needs to stay vigilant.”