THESE ARE THE MOLUCCAN ISLANDS
Historically, Maluku (also known as the Moluccas or the Spice Islands) is perhaps, to the outside world, the best-known part of the Indonesian archipelago. Rich harvest of nutmeg and cloves, worth more than gold, lured the Dutch colonialist into the European wars between the Portuguese, the Dutch and the English in the 16th and 17th centuries, and ruled the islands as part of the Dutch East Indies for 350 years (1559 to 1950). To acquire control of the nutmeg trade, in 1619 the ruthless 31 year old Dutch East Indies Governor-General Jan Pieterszoon Coen exterminated the indigenous population of the Banda islands, part of central Maluku - one of the blackest days in Dutch colonial history. (read also Massacre of the Bandanese)
Indonesian neo-colonialism has now replaced Dutch colonialism but the Moluccan people still remain under foreign occupation.
The Moluccas are located in the southeastern part of the Indonesian archipelago, near the equator, north of Australia and west of West Papua. The city of Ambon, located on the island of Ambon, is the provincial capital. Once the focus of the Dutch spice monopoly, the city now serves as a center of communications, commerce, and services. Forming a partial circle around the deep Banda Sea (6550 m) the main islands are: Ceram (Seram), Ambon, Buru, the Southeastern and Southwestern Islands. The biggest islands are Halmahera, Bacan, Obi, Ternate and Tidore.
More than two million people live on these islands; in addition nearly one million Moluccans live on the Indonesian islands and a further 60.000 live in the Netherlands - a population roughly the same as Singapore's or Costa Rica's.
The total land area is roughly one-and-a half times the size of the Netherlands or Switzerland, or three times the size of El Salvador or Israel.
Vegetation and wildlife resemble the ecology of Melanesia, New Guinea and northern Australia, differing significantly from the ecology of Java and Sumatra - the main entities of the nation of Indonesia.
Although rich in natural resources, the province is currently one of the least developed of the regions of Indonesia. Per capita income is perhaps only half of the Indonesian average.
By race, culture, custom and manner, the Moluccans differ from the dominant Indonesians who are descendants of the Mogoloid-Malayan race. The Moluccans are Melanesians, a tall, dark-skinned people with wide eyes and curly hair. Like other Melanesians (and indigenous peoples throughout the world), they are in a constant struggle to preserve their village and tribal culture.
Through some 2300 years of domination by Arab, Portugese, Dutch and now Indonesian colonialism, the Moluccan people have not forgotten the ancient laws and traditions of their nationhood. One ancient practice is rooted in mutual assistance: members of one village traditionally lend plant seedings or help build a storehouse in a neighboring village.
A PEOPLE IN PERIL
The Moluccan people are victimized. Sixty-two years of Javanese-dominant occupation of Indonesia has taken its toll. The national identity of the Moluccan people is disappearing fast. An overall Javanese identity is taking its place, which is pervading daily social behavior. This is effectuated by ceaseless efforts of Jakarta to transmigrate tens of thousands Javanese families all over the Moluccan islands. The more than two million indigenous people are being engulfed by the influx of new settlers.
Reports from the Moluccas tell of the movement of Malay families into these Melanesian islands and also of planned and encouraged intermarriage by the government. Suffering under the political and military repression, which exists throughout Indonesia, the Moluccans are powerless.
And because of the naivete (too-easy adaptability) of the Moluccan people, the Javanization of the indigenous culture takes place with negligible opposition.
The relatively tiny and disadvantaged indigenous people of the Moluccas is no match for the one hundred million plus of the Island of Java and the calculated program to institutionalize Javanism throughout Indonesia.
Adat-grounds (indigenous inherited lands) are granted to transmigrants under a "land reform" policy, which leaves indigenous landowner with only limited garden plots in the immediate vicinity of their homes.
MICHR WELCOMES YOU
Customary Council of Kei Besar island in Maluku during sasi ceremony for coconuts
INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP:
The Indonesian government should give urgent priority to identifying and prosecuting the snipers responsible for dozens of deaths on 25th April 2004 in Ambon / Moluccas Read More
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