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Kings on Stage: Local Leadership in the Post-Suharto Moluccas

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In 2007, village kings from all over the Moluccan province gathered in Ambon city and founded a pan-Moluccan raja forum called Majelis Latupati Maluku (MLM). The association is meant to unite traditional leadership, re-integrate Moluccan society and build an effective interface to the regional government. Decisive were two factors: firstly, the inter-religious violence that had torn Moluccan society apart required neutral means to (re)unify the Moluccan people and prevent further conflict; and secondly, the decentralisation laws passed in post-Suharto Indonesia were meant to re-empower the local level by legalising the revival and reconstruction of local political structures and the comeback of traditional leaders, such as the raja, in the Moluccas. These village kings attracted tremendous attention all of a sudden and great hopes are placed in them both from the top, as well as from the bottom. This article aims to discuss the enormous challenges the MLM faces by analysing current developments and looking into the historical dimension of the raja and the MLM. This includes critical reflections on questions of representation, the interface between tradition (adat) and politics, the notion of an inventive adaptation of so-called traditional institutions to new requirements and the potential of the raja and the MLM as means for peace.

Affiliations: 1: Goethe-University Frankfurt


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