International Journal of Business and Social Science

ISSN 2219-1933 (Print), 2219-6021 (Online) DOI: 10.30845/ijbss

Rivalry of the Elites in Ethno-Religious Conflicts: Dynamics of Conflict Arising from Territorial Split of Mamasa
Mohamad Subhan

There has been an escalating trend in social conflicts since regional autonomy came into effect. “Pemekaran daerah” which literally means territorial split or administrative fragmentation whereby new provinces and districts are created by dividing existing ones and which ironically strengthens the sense of identity based on race, ethnic group, religion, and other communal identity is one that triggers such conflicts. This study examines and discusses the rivalry of the elites in the ethno-religious conflicts that erupted during the process of territorial split of Mamasa district of West Sulawesi, Indonesia, in 2002 as a major part of regional autonomy. Mamasa,which was once part of the “mother” district of Polmas, was established into an autonomous district. Not only was the district divided but people in this region also had differing opinion on the idea of territorial split. Supporters of the administrative fragmentation were dubbed “pro” while opponents were called”kontra”. This research uses qualitative method. The data were collected through in-depth interviews, field observations, and secondary data. Studies reveal that autonomy is the potential cause of conflicts because it allows for competition among the contending elites who fight for political positions, economic resources, and other aspects of power. Unlike previous literature studies that put an emphasis on political conflicts and ethnic conflicts, this research focuses on ethno-religious conflicts involving two contending ethnic groups practicing two different religions: the Mandar who are predominantly Muslims and the Toraja who are Christians. The territorial split has indeed changed the socio-political constellation in the region. The Mandar who was once the dominant ethnic group is now a minority and the Toraja have now become the dominant ethnic group in the newly-established district.

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