Ambon. As thousands gather here this week in the lead-up to the main event of Sail Banda 2010, officials hope Maluku will finally be able to shed the shadow of its conflicted past.
Agung Laksono, coordinating minister for people’s welfare, said in a media conference on Sunday that Sail Banda — an international maritime event — would showcase how the province had overcome years of interethnic conflict.
“This is our way of telling the outside world that Maluku is safe and peaceful,” he said.
The region experienced one of the country’s longest ethnic-religious conflicts after the fall of former President Suharto.
The conflict between the area’s Christian and Muslim populations erupted in 1999, when a trivial dispute at a bus terminal in Ambon sparked violent clashes in the surrounding islands.
A government-brokered peace deal between the two sides was implemented in February 2002, but not before the ensuing violence left thousands dead.
In the lead-up to Sail Banda’s main event on Tuesday, joint operations have been carried out by the navies of Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and the United States to offer free health treatment to residents.
“Never before has there been a medical intervention on a scale this big here,” Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Fadel Muhammad said .
“It has touched the lives of tens of thousands of people living on some of the most remote islands, and is by far the biggest campaign of its kind in recent history.”
On Tuesday, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will declare Maluku — long famed as the “Spice Islands” — as the “National Fish Belt.” Fadel said Maluku had the potential to produce 1.6 million tons of fish a year, up from about 1.3 million tons at present.
Yudhoyono will also unveil a Sail Banda commemorative stamp, tour the US hospital ship USNS Mercy and Indonesian warship KRI Soeharso, and inspect the yachts of regatta participants.
Earlier, local military commander Maj. Gen. Hatta Syafruddin said about 6,170 military and police personnel would be on hand to provide security for the president and for the regatta.
“Sail Banda is the perfect launchpad from which to kick-start development in Maluku and open wider opportunities for investment in the province,” he said.
Source: Jakarta Globe, Ade Mardiyati | August 01, 2010
Additional reporting by Antara