One of the most violent conflicts of the post-Suharto era took place in the Moluccas, Eastern Indonesia, from 1999 until 2003. Due to a strategic mobilisation process, it was mainly fought out between Christians and Muslims. After the conflict, local actors in the Moluccas hoped to build up sustainable peace through the revival of traditions that are supposed to overcome religious differences and enable harmonious living together. Taking up these local voices or voices that claim to be local, this paper wants to discuss the option of a cultural approach to conflict solution and to reflect on the reconciliatory potential of the revival of tradition. The prominent village alliance system in the Central Moluccas called pela serves as an example how 'traditional' mechanisms were used in order to foster reconciliation. This paper also analyses challenges and problems of the revival-reconciliation interplay in order to reveal both the integrative, as well as the exclusivist, character of revived traditions that are supposed to overcome religious differences.
In 2007, village kings from all over the Moluccan province gathered in Ambon city and founded a pan-Moluccan raja forum called Majelis Latupati Maluku (MLM). The association is meant to unite traditional leadership, re-integrate Moluccan society and build an effective interface to the regional government. Decisive were two factors: firstly, the inter-religious violence that had torn Moluccan society apart required neutral means to (re)unify the Moluccan people and prevent further conflict; and secondly, the decentralisation laws passed in post-Suharto Indonesia were meant to re-empower the local level by legalising the revival and reconstruction of local political structures and the comeback of traditional leaders, such as the raja, in the Moluccas. These village kings attracted tremendous attention all of a sudden and great hopes are placed in them both from the top, as well as from the bottom. This article aims to discuss the enormous challenges the MLM faces by analysing current developments and looking into the historical dimension of the raja and the MLM. This includes critical reflections on questions of representation, the interface between tradition (adat) and politics, the notion of an inventive adaptation of so-called traditional institutions to new requirements and the potential of the raja and the MLM as means for peace.
Birgit Bräuchler and Maribeth Erb
The boundaries of what has constituted “Eastern Indonesia” have shifted depending on the historical, cultural, political, or economic context. We review various ways that Eastern Indonesia has been understood, to overview the different ways of delineating and approaching this fascinating part of Indonesia in order to introduce this special issue. The intention of this special issue, however, is not to attempt to clearly define Eastern Indonesia once and for all, but to open up via these various historical and contemporary concerns with Eastern Indonesia, new ways of grappling with this region in the present Post-Suharto era. The current social and political transformations offer a great deal of opportunity to reflect on the way global and national flows of people, money, notions of governance and religious ideas, are so crucial to understanding and making sense of the current dynamics in the region. By focusing our attention on how these global and national influences intersect with the local, we want to bring out how they are appropriated and manipulated by local communities; at the same time they may undermine and transform what is taking place at the local level.