Aboru: The forgotten village of Maluku

Aboru: The forgotten village of Maluku ------------
Saturday, July 21, 2007 -----------
The Jakarta Post, Aboru, Central Maluku -------------
Stories about the Aboru people abound and they're also pretty frightening. But while some listeners might get scared away, others might find the tales a magnet that is hard to resist. -------------
The trip from Maluku's provincial capital Ambon to Aboru village on Haruku Island in Central Maluku is not an easy one. -------------
After leaving Ambon at seven in the morning for the 26-km trip by public transport to Hurnala Tulehu Port, we arrived to see high waves and the rented speedboat that we would take to reach the village over an unfriendly looking sea. --------------
But six people, including The Jakarta Post, took the trip, speeding through the waves and getting close to the strait between Haruku and Saparua Islands. -------------
But rough waters hit the speedboat hard and forced it to land at Hulaliuw beach and the passengers to continue the trip to Naira hamlet in Aboru village overland by a rented minivan that cost Rp 120,000 for a single 20-minute trip. -------------
As we approached Naira, the asphalt road vanished, to be replaced by a dirt track that was almost entirely covered by thick brush. -------------
"The road to Aboru is never going to be built. Only the land that was cleared away and left like that is the road. Even the bridge didn't get completed. It's natural for them to be angry and go against the law. I think their protest is only being made to get attention," the minivan's driver said. -------------
The car reached Waira, a small river in the corner of Naira hamlet, where a bridge -- started in 2004 but never completed -- could be seen, its two pillars support just visible through the forest. ------------
The road was getting harder to pass and the group had to continue the trip to the village by foot for at least another hour. The dirt road was cleared by a contractor in 2003 but the project stopped when the money dried up. ------------
At the Aboru village, the air was tense. No greeting or smile was returned. --------------
The residential areas looked clean and descent with a concrete road around them. But both the road and bridge in the village were built by the residents and with the assistance of Aboru people abroad, especially those in the Netherlands. -------------
There was barely a government touch, apart from a two-classroom elementary school, parts of which were already damaged. The school was built when Maluku was under governor Sinyo Harri Sarundajang, now North Sulawesi Governor. ------------
Several men then approached us and asked why we were there and when explained, the hostility was gone. They even asked other residents to gather in the village hall and brought in chairs for the guests. ------------
Head of Aboru village administrative affairs, Yance Riry, said it was wrong for the government to consider Aboru a separatist stronghold. -----------
He said the residents were protesting against being neglected by the government. -------------
"We never tasted the country's independence in 1945. Roads in the village are built by us, even the bridge. Where's the government attention for us?" Yance asked. ------------
He said than when Yance Sinay was Aboru King in 1980, he said there would be land clearance to build a road right into Aboru village. ------------
In 2003, the land was cleared but it did not reach the village. Now the cleared land is damaged after years of erosion and abrasion. ------------
"We keep getting only promises," he said. ------------
Riry said the Aboru people were waiting for a high school, water reservoir and road connecting it to other villages. He said the nine other villages on Haruku Island all had roads built for them. ------------
"This is what people are complaining about. When 63 Aboru people went do jail for being involved with RMS, they were not demanding independence, but were demanding that Aboru be taken as part of the nation. Aboru people turned to violence for that reason. ------------
"Don't keep blaming the Aboru for political problems. What the Aboru people are doing is protesting against the government for not knowing what independence tastes like," Riry said. ------------
A government promise to build a high school has never been realized, while a similar proposition by the Central Maluku administration has also never appeared. -------------
Maluku Governor Karel Albert Ralahalu's promise during his Christmas tour to the island on Dec. 7 last year to build SMUN 3 senior high school in Naira hamlet, with construction to start in March this year, does not appear to have materialized. ------------
In Aboru, only an elementary school is found in the village. The village's schoolchildren have to walk six km over hills and dirt roads to study at a junior high school in Naira hamlet. ------------
Apart from the lack of education facilities, there are not enough teachers for the students. The teachers work from morning until late in the afternoon for an additional Rp 5,000 per hour. --------------
Healthcare is another problem. None of the residents has been treated by doctor, and there are only three medical workers with limited supplies. ---------------
"This social and development gap has lowered people's hopes. Aboru might have to do something like yesterday (the flag-waving incident) to get attention, but now those youths are being jailed and we hope they are not getting a serious punishment for this," Riry said. ------------
Similar disappointments were also raised by Aboru's community leader, 69-year-old Salmon Tuankotta. ------------
Apart from the absence of development, he criticized the unfair treatment Aboru people received when applying for jobs as civil servants or police and military officers, even if they have graduated from senior high school or even universities. Many Aboru end up unemployed. ------------
"With the difficult economic situation now, where could they go? During the (flag-waving) incident, they just want to take a moral stand, not anarchy. The government should also pay attention to the Aboru people, especially the futures of the young people."