29.12.2016 change 29.12.2016

What we can learn from the tragic story of Dayak and Madura tribes

The Madurese were the tribe that came to Borneo in search of work and a better life. They met there with resentment of local Dayaks and accusations of taking away jobs. The conflict ended in a bloody massacre. "Their history, however, shows that even after such a tragedy people can live in peace" - said Tomasz Burdzik, who conducts research on Borneo.

Dayaks are one of the native tribes of the Indonesian island of Borneo. Madurese are a migrant tribe from the islands of Java and Madura. In the second half of the twentieth century the then Indonesian leader General Suharto decided to move part of the inhabitants of these populated islands to less populated areas, for example Borneo. In addition - said Tomasz Burdzik, a doctoral student at the University of Silesia in Katowice - many members of the Madura tribe moved to Borneo voluntarily. Java was already quite heavily urbanized, which made it difficult there to be competitive on the labour market. In Borneo, everything was still to be done: roads, schools. It would take many hands to work.

"Madurese went to Borneo in search of work and a better life, just like the Poles went to the UK and other countries after the accession to the European Union" - told PAP Burdzik, who conducted research among Dayak and Madura tribes during his research stays in Borneo.

Although the animosity between the two tribes would surface from time to time, the conflict broke out with the greatest force in the beginning of the twenty-first century.

The end of General Suharto\'s dictatorship contributed considerably to the culmination of the conflict. "For a long time all of Indonesia was a regime. There were no ethnic conflicts, because as soon as there was a spark, Suharto would sent troops to suppress it. When after many years his regime fell, the altercations, ethnic and professional conflicts broke out in Indonesia with redoubled force. Earlier, the Indonesians could not express their beliefs, prejudices and hatred" - said Burdzik.

The conflict with the most tragic consequences broke out in the early twenty-first century between Dayaks and the Madura tribe. "Dayaks accused Madurese of stealing their jobs and pushing the natives of Borneo out of the labour market. The conflict spread over the whole island, and its scale was unimaginable" - said the researcher.

Armed Dayaks began to massacre the Madurese; hundreds of them were beheaded. The Dayaks have long been known as "headhunters". In the times of ancient tribal conflicts this method of fighting with the enemy distinguished them among tribes. "During the conflict of 2001 these +war traditions+ were revived. Just as they did in the past, Dayaks would cut off the heads of their enemies - this time the members of the Madura tribe, often preventing subsequent identification of the victims. Tradition is still alive among the Dayak community, manifesting itself not only in language, customs, but also in the way of killing enemies" - described Burdzik.

The government was powerless to stop ethnic cleansing that happened in Borneo in the early twenty-first century. The Indonesian national ideology Pancasila did not help to stop of solve the conflict. That ideology was created when Indonesia was a Dutch colony. "The natives had to have a doctrine that would give a sense of belonging and stability to a multicultural nation. Balinese are in fact Hindus, Javanese - Islamic and Catholic. Almost every island - a different culture and ideology. Pancasila consists of five factors: belief in one God, democracy, social justice, humanity and national unity. In practice, however, it has little effect on reality. It did not help calm the conflict in the past, and now it has no effect on the functioning of the society" - emphasised Burdzik.

The Dayak and Madura conflict, however, ended with the accord between the tribes that committed to prevent repeating the tragic events. "It should be noted, however, that although currently there are no murders and mutual attacks, the layers of prejudice and hatred still exist" - noted Burdzik.

"During my fieldwork I was interested in how these two tribes functioned together after the years. Especially since Madurese - even after the ethnic cleansing - were still coming to Borneo" - he said.

"What could be important for us is how the conflicts that occurred thousands of kilometres away and in a completely different culture could be translated into our reality. The example of these two tribes shows that even after such a massacre people can coexist peacefully" - said the researcher.

"In Europe, we now have a lot of smaller and larger ethnic conflicts, a lot of resentment of people immigrating, for example, for work. Poles living in Britain experience manifestations of aggression. The example of Dayaks and Madurese shows that in Europe we are closed to how similar phenomena work on a global scale. And we are not in a unique situation" - said Burdzik.

PAP - Science and Scholarship in Poland, Ewelina Krajczyńska

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