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Indonesia: Papua Residents Fearful even as Military Presence Grows

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Indonesian security forces stand guard around the village of Yal in Nduga regency, Jan. 12, 2019. -Victor Mambor/BenarNews

Papua, Jubi – Calm has yet to return to Nduga regency in Indonesia’s Papua province where separatist rebels killed 19 construction workers in December, forcing residents to flee to escape clashes between the insurgents and government security forces, officials and residents said Wednesday.

Soldiers and police launched an operation code-named “Operasi Nemangkawi” to capture those responsible in the killings of workers who were building the Trans-Papua Highway. Regional military spokesman Col. Muhamad Aidi said no arrests have been made.

“We have been focusing on restoring security, protecting citizens and displaced people,” Muhamad said.

Meanwhile, fears abound that more violence could erupt.

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“We are afraid to return to our village because there are still soldiers and police,” Usman Lokbere, an Nduga resident who fled to Wamena, the main town in Jayawijaya regency, told BenarNews on Wednesday.

In addition to efforts to capture the suspected killers, the military sent 600 soldiers to Nduga this week to resume the construction of bridges as part of the highway that stretches more than 4,300 km (2,687 miles) from Sorong, the largest city in West Papua province, to Merauke regency, and is scheduled to be completed in 2019.

“The TNI (Indonesian Armed Forces) personnel are currently on their way to Timika, then to Nduga,” said Osman Marbun, head of the Jayapura National Road Development Center (BBPJN).

The soldiers, based in the capital of South Sulawesi province, are to provide security while working on the construction project, according to a military official.

“The 600 TNI personnel will be deployed around the Trans Papua road, between Wamena and Mumugu,” regional military chief Maj. Gen. Yosua Pandit Sembiring said.

The West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), armed wing of the Free Papua Movement (OPM), claimed responsibility for the killings, alleging that the people they killed were soldiers from the military’s engineering detachment, and not civilian workers.

Construction on parts of the highway has been stalled for months, but President Joko Widodo has vowed to finish the project as part of his promise to develop the resource-rich area.

Criticism

Papuan House of Representatives member Laurens Kadepa criticized the military’s move, saying sending reinforcements was not a solution and would only add to the climate of fear.

“Indonesia is being watched closely by the international community, global church councils and even the United Nations due to the ongoing violence in Papua, but the central government still maintains the practice of violence,” he told BenarNews.

“The spotlight (on Indonesia) should have prompted the government to reform security measures in Papua,” he said.

Human rights activist Peneas Lokbere said sending hundreds of soldiers contradicted claims by authorities that security had been restored in Nduga and that residents have returned to their villages.

“If indeed the situation in Nduga is peaceful, why is the TNI sending reinforcements? That will only prolong people’s trauma,” he said.

Nduga resident Raga Kogoya called the decision to send more troops unfair.

“We are only a few, why must we continue to be subjected to security operations,” Raga told BenarNews.

Daniel Kogoya, spokesman for the Nduga Regency Regional Secretariat, said the local government remains focused on providing food and health care to residents who were uprooted from their homes by the violence.

“Many people are still displaced. They have little food to eat and their health is deteriorating,” Daniel said. “Displaced children have been unable to attend classes while exams are approaching.”

Papua is one of the archipelago’s poorest regions despite its rich natural resources. It declared independence from Dutch colonial rule on Dec. 1, 1961, but that was rejected by the Netherlands and later by Indonesia.

In 1963, Indonesian forces invaded the region and annexed it, and six years later held a controversial referendum in which, according to rights groups, security forces selected slightly more than 1,000 people to agree to the region’s formal absorption into the archipelagic nation. (benarnews.org)

This article appeared first time in benarnews.org

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A tragic story from Deiyai Regent Office

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Anti-racism protest in Waghete, the capital of Deiyai Regency, Papua, on Wednesday (28/8/2019). – Jubi/IST

Jayapura, Jubi – A rally to protest racism against West Papuans in front of the Deiyai Regent Office on Wednesday, 28 August 2019, turned to a tragedy. A local parliament member Alfret Pakage told Jubi about the tragic story.

The story began when a young man called Yustimus Takimas died in a car crash involving an Indonesian soldier. His death triggered a mass rampage that ended with the police’s gunshot.

“I don’t have an idea about what was happening at the Regent Office’s backyard because I was standing at the side door watching people coming. After the car accident that killed young Takimai, people killed a soldier who was in the car. Then, all young men joined the crowd. Some entered through the front while others from the back via BKD Office. At that time the joint security force stood at the corner of the Regent Office. I was there too facing the BKD Office,” Pakage told Jubi by phone on Wednesday, (11/9/2019).

Furthermore, he said the mob threw stones to the soldiers, and they responded it with tear gas shots. However, when they found out a soldier killed, they threw bullets against the crowd. “I told the Crime and Investigation Department Chief of Paniai Police to hold. It happened when they (security force) knew a soldier died. They shot their guns to the people,” he said.

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Then, the Military District Commandant immediately came out of his office located across the street in front of the Regent Office. “He shouted ‘my soldier is dead. Where’s the Regent? He must be responsible for this. The soldiers took their gun out. Brimob personnel were also there,” he said.

Pakage was alone at the scene, while the regent, deputy regent, local parliament members and all government officials already left their office. The police step on the body of the dead victim lying under the flagpole at the office’s front yard.

“I shouted at them to stop.” While he was confused about how to stop it, he also could not do anything because he was alone and under gun threat.

“I saw people died lying under the flagpole. It’s just me. I was alone. When the soldiers found out that people taken away their guns, they prevented me from being a mediator. They even pointed their guns against me and said ‘you want to back up or not? If not, you’ll be responsible for this’. After that, I backed up. But I still told them not be overwhelming,” he said.

Furthermore, according to Pakage, he moved to a kiosk opposite the Regent Office to join some police officers of Mee origin. It was only 17:12 but already so quiet, and nobody dared to pass. He then saw the ambulance from Deiyai Public Hospital going to the scene.

“I saw the ambulance coming from Deiyai Public Hospital to collect West Papuans who injured and fell because of the shooting. But the police came to block the car, pulled out the victims and took the ambulance’s key. They put their injured friends (soldiers), sent both driver and medical workers home. Then ambulance went to Paniai and left the injured West Papuans,” he said.

It was getting late, so he hurried to go home. He reminded himself that he must keep safe from the danger. Of returning home, he observed that Waghete became so quiet. Only found the security forces standing along the street from the Regent Office to Waghete II until the airport compound.

On the next day, Thursday (29/8/2019), he returned to the scene to check whether the dead bodies are still there or taken to the hospital.

“I only saw the soldiers standing along the street. I didn’t meet any residents. First of all, I checked the Deiyai Public Hospital, but the gate was locked and no activities there. I came inside knocking the door but no one there. So, I went to the scene to check whether the victims are still there or not. So I parked my vehicle at the entrance of the Regent’s office. Suddenly, the joint security force came investigating me with anger.

“They asked, ‘where are our guns?’ I told them I am also a part of this country. Those weapons are the state’s tools; I try to find those losing guns. However, the victims were not there anymore. So I went to Damabagata, Tigi Timur sub-district because I heard from someone that they keep the weapons there. At that time, the Military District Commandant was well-equipped guarding at the intersection of Waghete, Dogiyai and Paniai,” he said.

He continued the story by saying that the Paniai Police then asked him to come to their office as a witness. “At that time, the police acted without thinking. It was a big mistake. They examined me as a witness at the regency police station,” he said.

Meanwhile, Father Santon Tekege Pr said the investigation of the Secretariat of Peace and Justice (SKP) of Paniai Dean – Timika Diocese concludes that a car accident involving a soldier that caused the death of Yustinus Takimai triggered this shooting incident.

“As a result of the gunfire and tear gas shots, seven civilians were dead, while 43 people injured with both minor and serious injuries,” said Father Santon. (*)

Reporter: Abeth You
Editor: Pipit Maizier

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JDP: Government must arrange the customary-based dialogue in Papua

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Pastor Jhon Bunay Pr, JDP Coordinator. – Jubi/Hengky Yeimo

Jayapura, Jubi – A dialogue on Papua should represent the people of Papua, Father Jhon Bunay Pr, the Coordinator for Papua Peace Networks (JDP), told reporters in a press conference held in Jayapura on 7 September 2019.

“The dialogue should conduct in seven Papuan territories, namely Mamta, Anim Ha, Lapago, Meepago, Saireri, Domberai and Bomberai and involve each representative of the central government, military and police, liberation army, Papuans living in Papua, Papuans domicile outside of Papua, other residents of Papua, investors and mass media,” he said.

Furthermore, he emphasises that the involvement of indigenous representatives in the dialogue is crucial. He hopes the government does not initiate the discussion with Papuans from outside of Papua because it could make problems difficult to solve.

“We are the same. We are brothers, no suspicion. There shouldn’t be the police or military’s spies or those who have no concern come in this dialogue. It’s important to ensure that everyone is free to express their feeling and thought, and we’ll find a solution together,” he said.

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He also reminds the government to not organising the dialogue in the form of a seminar. It would not work in terms of producing a satisfactory result for everyone. “We will never find a real solution (through seminar); the result is null. Instead, we must invite local peoples to speak,” he said.

Moreover, he says the dialogue between Jakarta and Papua would never happen due to the high suspicions amongst stakeholders. “Perhaps we are too suspicious of each other. Talking about Papua’s issues should not be done with another approach, because the dialogue is the best approach,” he said.

Therefore, he said the relevant stakeholders must sit together to recover painful and bitter memories during the long conflict that occurred in Papua, including to put suspicious away.

“We must do reconciliation in the seven Papuan territories with involving all relevant stakeholders in Papua. Meanwhile, other components such as military and police, liberation army, Papuans from inside and outside of Papua, other residents of Papua, and mass media must attend (and involved in the process of) in the reconciliation,” he said.

Therefore, the process of reconciliation will turn out to be a transformation point for Papua to plan the best future for Papua. He also reminds that instead of discussing Papua in or inside Indonesia, it is more important to talk about the indigenous rights in Papua, and the welfare of all indigenous Papuans.

“I believe that the dialogue will solve all the problems from the past. Using guns, arresting and putting people in jail would not solve the problem. Instead, it makes it worse,” he says.

Meanwhile, JDP Deputy Daniel Randongkir said authorities must prioritise the principles of human rights and justice. “Once again, for JDP, the dialogue is the only way to solve the problem in Papua with rights and pure. Therefore it can be solved on behalf of justice and dignity,” he said. (*)

 

Reporter: Hengky Yeimo
Editor: Pipit Maizier

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ULMWP: Military and mass organisation in Surabaya are responsible for demonstration waves in Papua

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Papuan Governor Lukas Enembe welcoming the anti-racism protestors on 19 August 2019. – Documentation of the Public Relations of Papuan Provincial Government.

Jayapura, Jubi – Buchtar Tabuni, the Chairman of Legislative Committee of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), declined that ULMWP was behind the mass protests and rampages in Papua. Instead, he accused the Indonesian military, and local mob committed in persecution and racism against Papuan students in Surabaya are responsible for these incidents.

“Those who should be responsible for these protests and rampages in Papua are soldiers, police officers, municipal police officers and the local mob in Surabaya. Those who attacked Papuan students and called them ‘monkeys’ have triggered demonstrations occurred in Papua,” he told Jubi on Sunday (8/9/2019) in Waena, Jayapura.

He further said that for the couple last weeks, the Indonesian Government has attempted to build a discourse to put the ULMWP as the actor behind the anti-racism movements in Papua. “The Indonesian government is panic, terrifying in addressing the issue of free Papua that currently becomes a headline in the rest of the world thanks to the South Pacific countries,” he said.

He also said the way military and police in addressing the outrage speared amongst Papuans is not right. Instead of acting promptly, the government denied the persecution and racism against Papuan students in Surabaya. They even deployed more soldiers to Papua. “ULMWP considers the current situation is similar to what had happened in Timor Lester ahead to their independence,” he said.

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Moreover, Tabuni stated the struggle for a referendum is open for everyone in Papua, including the migrants. He said the migrants have two options to response the growing demand of referendum amongst Papuans. “First, if they want to stay, they must declare their support to referendum for West Papua, just like indigenous Papuans did. Second, if they want to return to their hometowns, they must go nicely, like Papuans student currently did,” he said.

Separately, Victor Yeimo, the Spokesperson of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), said Papuan people are not ‘animals’. They are not easy to provoke by the ULMWP, KNPB, Veronika Koman or Benny Wenda. People go to the street because they want to fight against colonialism.

“The Indonesian Government still perceive Papuans as sub-human (half-animal) who easy to provoke. Up to now they always blame on particular organisations or certain people as the actors. Just asks Papuans whether they go to the street because of being provoked by KNPB? Veronica Koman? Benny Wenda? The answer is not,” he said. (*)

Reporter: Hengky Yeimo
Editor: Pipit Maizier

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