Conflict Background in West Kalimantan

West Kalimantan plays a significant role in the history of ethnic conflicts in Indonesia which causes communal violence. Based upon UNSFIR (The United Nations Support Facility for Indonesian Recovery) research on communal violence in Indonesia between 1990-2003, West Kalimantan rank on third place (After North Maluku and Maluku) with the death toll of 1.151 lives out of 11.160 victims who died of communal violence or around 13, 6% from the total death count. The largest contribution on west Kalimantan’s communal violence victims happens on the Dayak-Melayu and Maduranese ethnic conflicts in 1996-1997. Interestingly, the large effect that it gives it happens only in a contain incidence. UNSFIR notes there are only 78 cases of communal violence or just 1.8% of all 4.270 conflict cases that happens in Indonesia. This shows, though rare and short, the damage that it causes are extensive. What has happened caused such significant impact on the people of West Kalimantan, trauma of violence, refugee, lost of belongings, and community disintegration? In those events at least 20.000 people seeks asylum migrating away from their home out of the conflicting area.

When we look at West Kalimantan history of conflicts, most disputes involves 4 large ethnic groups, the Dayaks, the Maduranese, the Melayu and the Chinese. The conflict between the Dayaks, the Melayu and the Maduranese that resulted in a major communal violence in 1997 was a build up of tension for many years. It was a long process in the history of conflict in West Kalimantan. History also notes conflicts between the Dayaks and the Chinese. Record shows several cases of communal violence the Dutch Indies Era through the New Order. We cannot refute the fact that the 1996-1997 conflict that involves the Dayaks and most of its minor ethnic groups hit the highest point in communal violence; it is the largest, widely spread and took the longest in West Kalimantan history. Beside the 1996-1997 conflict, history records the 1967 conflicts between the Dayaks and the Chinese where thousands of ethnic Chinese died and resulted in mass evacuation from the city and the coast. History also notes the several cases of communal violence from 1950-1999. The long history of violence causes by ethnic conflict in West Kalimantan causes deep scar which gives a traumatic psychological impact, prejudice and distrust that are inherited from generation to generation in all aspect of West Kalimantan community that includes its social institution, economic structure and its local politics.


Dayak – Madura and Domination Relationship in West Kalimantan

Communal violence in West Kalimantan happens as a consequence of ethnical conflict between the Maduranese and the Dayaks. An Open conflict that resulted in communal violence can be seen as a process of insurgency from the Dayaks on the inequality position with the Maduranese. An issue that is conspicuous in this case is the issue of the relation between the native ethnic groups who became the local inhabitants and certain ethnic groups who became the newcomer or outsider of the inhabitants. There are process of marginalization and domination of one certain ethnic group in this case the Maduranese and the Dayaks and Melayu as the native ethnic group. The process of domination in reality is done locally in certain region which are the center dwelling of the Maduranese, in West Kalimantan it is the Sambas Region (now it is the Sambas Residency and the Bengkayang Residency). The open conflict that resulted violently in 1998 is a long accumulation process of domination that they experience all this time.


Speaking of domination, I would like to quote Bruner say on the relation of domination and minority relation in Indonesia (Bruner, 1974, 255). From the research he conducted in Bandung and Medan there are 3 important components that need to be explained in viewing the relationships of domination and minority in ethnic groups’ relation in a certain area. The 3 components are:

1. population ratio or social demography that does not only function a heterogeneity but more as special condition to gives a domination context,

2. The security of the local ethnic culture and on how to articulate it,

3. And last, is how to organize spaces for power and its distribution with the other ethnic groups.


If we reflect upon the ethnic conflict in West Kalimantan, the elements of minority domination process proposed by Brunner can be found there. Even when at that time (around 1990-1998) the Maduranese are demographically a minority ethnic group, it controls many strategic resources. Significant increases in Maduranese population in the urban and semi-urban area in Sambas cause an disproportion in the population composition. As we know, the Dayaks mostly dwell in the countryside, at the upstream of the rivers. As in contrast the Maduranese generally live in the urban area. This imbalance of demographic spread and composition resulted in political and economical dominance in West Kalimantan. With a larger population compare to other ethnic groups, the Maduranese create a strong network of primordial in Sambas. The forming of this network of primordial ethnicity they control strategic resources and economic spaces that was once controlled by other ethnic groups. Also the geographic aspect of which the Maduranese eventually has taken over which is control of the countryside along the upstream of the rivers who was once controlled by the local ethnic groups.


Cultural consolidations were conducted by controlling the social, political and economical structures. For example in the economical structures, during their initial arrival in 1829 the Maduranese only plays the part of a low market and harbor labor. Along with the transmigration program conducted by the government during the New Order Regime which started in 1971 they were able to strengthen their social network and are able to position themselves higher in the local culture’s social structure. As consequence of this condition, an inequality position among the ethnic groups. In the Sambas conflict case, the Maduranese controls the productive natural resources in the region. The local community were not able to gain access to enhance their economics because the lost of control on their resources (the forest) which the formerly owned. Their forest were logged and cut by the authority through the HPH and mining companies which mostly came from Jakarta. The rainforest, according to the Dayaks, is not just an economical resources but it is also a cultural identity. Along with the decrease of the forest, their culture will also dwindle.


On political dominance, the Maduranese consolidates their dominance by gaining access on the local biro racy and on the access life enrichments such as in education and work. The immigrants have better access to education compare with the locals, this is because schools are an economic expenditure and are mostly accessible in large cities. With the lower education level, the locals were only able to work at certain fields who does not emphasize on high skills and at a lower wages.


On other hand, the political marginalization was also done by the central government through the implementation of several policies which sidelined the locals. In The Regional Governance Act of No. 5 1979 for example, the Adat Community must change their social structures based on a uniformed structures of village governance which adopts the Javanese form of village organization. Through this law the government tried to move some population from the rural regions to the suburbs with a centered characteristic. No less than 77 percent out of 4.362 villages in west Kalimantan were formed into the village restructuring program which resulted in 1.297 new villages. In the Land Reform Act of 1960 and the Forestry Act of 1967 the land rights of the native population were marginalize by the central government.


With the support of a significant quantity of population, the Maduranese culture gradually became the dominant culture among the local cultures in Sambas. This is because there is a strengthening process in primordial ethnic identity so that the power of their social network increases. In this context, the Maduranese culture became the center of the social structures among the locals in Sambas. The cultural structure of the Maduranese became so noteworthy in the social structures in sambas, they were able articulate themselves so well by using cultural symbols. Inequality can have many sources within the community. As we have seen in the preceding sections a major source of inequality is social class. Economic and social inequality can arise from other socially defined characteristics that result in different group within the community having different access to the goods and services of the community.


West Kalimantan: Fragile Ethnic Relationship

Basically “ethnic” is something a social boundary which is developed by people in the group and get confirmation by other people. Ethnicity is how the person in the group develops social conformity with using similarity as symbol of group. Otherwise ethnic is also something ascription given by nature or we called as categorical ascription (Barth,1969). In this case ethnicity is valuable as reference for someone to put in certain categorize. What kind people he is based on similarity he has with other people. In other term, culture can be understood as knowledge preference for people to interpret all phenomenons and act in social life.


In social relationship as communication and social act, everyone using his culture knowledge to analyze and categorize. In case of ethnic relationship some people using his ethnic culture to analyze and categorize other people. By using culture knowledge he knows how to be supposed to act in certain situation with other people. Someone able to manage social situation, his attitude and his action based on his culture knowledge.

In case of Indonesia as a society consisted by the ethnic groups which are by together realizing themselves one nation, Indonesian nation. Nation concept developed on the basis of feeling communal identity and having tradition history which relative equal and have especial element of culture, inhabiting identified in geographical unit and agreed together on it (David Robertson, 1993). As a nation, Indonesia society live in a set of politics that is a totalitarian state which have republic pattern, what have base to democracy principles, taking possession of a region residing in under power of Indonesia state. In plural society, like Indonesia, problem which emerges is relation to system of state governance with the ethnic groups becoming the state people, relation of among different ethnic groups its culture, and relation of among different society member humanity of the ethnic groups.


Furthermore implication from political policy of culture like said before is negating of cultural rights from community or ethnic groups which dealt only with uniformed to become the cultural rights of national society. Cultural rights of ethnic groups which is traditionally cover the rights to live as according to culture of each and cultural rights for nature resource owned thereby assumed by nothing. Uniforming of culture ethnic in that area in the end corner of culture which that diversity by mentioning it’s as a situated behind culture and have to be Indonesia. Government to indirectly take the role which during the time becomes the role of institution local in finishing various existing problem in community level. This circumstance longer make the strength and existing institution local function in society to finish the problem and conflict mounted by local become weak progressively. With the circumstance like in the end Indonesia fragile to various existing conflict potency, where its problems roots is not at ethnic and itself religion. But more to a condition of social un-justice where each local community member haven’t accessed same to experienced resource. Access the role and also in fact can be interpreted by as an effort from society group for the manage of, to maintaining and preserve the environment resource as its life source, where in its management use the knowledge and norm becoming reference.


In case of West Kalimantan, ethnic relationship is not developed in term of equity and democracy. Certain ethnic in some case dominated in certain area. They are using ethnic culture as preference to analyze and categorize in culture in certain area. That’s why domination able to come in and happened in certain place in West Kalimantan. Equity in access to get resources within social and economic issue is leading issue in important related to ethnic relationship.


Ashutosh Varshney, Rizal Panggabean, & Moh. Zulfan Tadjoeddin, Patterns of Collectives Violence in Indonesia (1990-2003)(Jakarta, UNSFIR,2004).

International Crisis Group, Communal Violence in Indonesia: Lessons from Kalimantan, (Jakarta/ Brussels: ICG Report 2001).

Riwanto Tirtosudarmo, Migrasi dan Konflik Etnis : Belajar dari Kalimantan Barat dan Tengah, Analisis CSIS, TahinXXX1/2002 No.3

Yekti Maunati, Identitas Dayak; Komodifikasi dan Politik Kebudayaan, LKIS, 2004


Adi Prasetijo