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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.

“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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West Papuans given jail time for rebellion

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Yakonias Womsiwor and Erichzon Mandobar. Photo: Facebook/ Veronica Koman

Papua, Jubi – Two West Papuans have been sentenced to more than a year in an Indonesian prison over a rebellion.

The jail terms come as several cases are being levelled against West Papuan activists and rebels in the restive region.

Yakonias Womsiwor and Erichzon Mandobar were detained in September when authorities raided the office of a Papuan independence group.

According to their lawyer, on Tuesday a judge in the Timika district court sentenced Mr Womsiwor to one year and six months jail.

His co-defendant got one year and three months in prison.

Both were sentenced under a criminal law for coercion and rebellion.

Lawyer Veronica Koman says she’s considering an appeal of the judgement.

During their arrests in Timika, the defendants were shot several times and denied medical attention until rights groups brought attention to their case.

Mr Womsiwor was shot six times in total, while Mr Mandobar was shot once, according to Amnesty International and Ms Koman.

“They were shot without warning as the law required,” Ms Koman said, adding that they were later allowed to be treated by their families.

Their arrests were part of a raid on the Timika secretariat of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), which was later seized by police.

Earlier in the trial, police and prosecutors had claimed the men were found with ammunition and guns, which the defendants denied was theirs, according to Ms Koman.

She said during the trial two police officers, including a deputy police chief, called as witnesses testified that military personnel had placed the ammunition and guns at the KNPB offices.

Ms Koman added that the sentencing on Monday did not give proper consideration to statements made by the defence.

The sentences come just days after a Polish tourist was jailed for five years for plotting to sell arms to West Papuan rebels. (*)

 

Source: RNZI

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Indonesia loses Pacific asset in Franzalbert Joku

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Indonesian government consultant on West Papua-related issues, Franz Albert Joku. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Papua, Jubi – Indonesia has lost a significant asset from in its Pacific diplomacy efforts with the recent passing of the West Papuan, Franzalbert Joku.

The prominent Sentani landowner was the international spokesman for the Papua Presidium Council which galvanised momentum in the independence struggle at the turn of the century.

But in his last decade, Mr Joku strongly advocated autonomy for Papua within Indonesia rather than independence. He often represented Indonesia at regional meetings of the Melanesian Spearhead Group and the Pacific Islands Forum.

Mr Joku, who died at the age of 66 late last month in Jayapura, had fled from Indonesian rule in his homeland as a youth with his family in the early 1970s. For around three decades he lived in various parts of Papua New Guinea where Mr Joku worked as a journalist and a PNG government advisor who developed extensive links in the Pacific.

An expert in Indonesian history and politics, Richard Chauvel of the University of Melbourne, says Mr Joku’s career in PNG was significant.

“His great utility both in the early 2000s (for the Papua Presidium) and post 2007/8 for the Indonesian government has been his intimate knowledge of Papua New Guinea politics, through his role as a journalist and then as a political advisor or spokesman for (former PNG PM) Julius Chan and other senior PNG politicians,” Dr Chauvel said.

“I think it’s that knowledge of local PNG politics, and through networks into the Pacific, that made him such a formidable figure, both initially for the Presidium, in the lobbying of the Melanesian Spearhead Group and the Pacific Islands Forum, and then subsequently for doing much the same thing, utilising the same skills and knowledge for the Indonesian government,” he explained.

As an effective envoy for Jakarta, Mr Joku had a forthright approach to his diplomacy, as evidenced last year by his instrumental role in pressing the Solomon Islands government to mollify its support for West Papuan self-determination aspirations:

Occupying both extremes of the Papuan political spectrum over time made Franzalbert Joku a polarising figure in the eyes of West Papuans.

“The way he executed those positions was remarkably the same – with great commitment, very articulate, he was obviously a bright guy… you could never accuse him of being nuanced,” Dr Chauvel said.

Dr Chauvel first met Franzalbert Joku when he was lobbying for the Presidium, the organisation which energised the independence struggle as democatic space opened up briefly in post-Suharto Indonesia around the time of the Papua People’s Congress in 2000 in Jayapura.

“He was just as vigorous and forthright in his advocacy of that position as he later became from 2007/8 onwards when he’d clearly joined the other side,” he said.

Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry has a number of officials who have led delegations to MSG and Pacific Forum meetings over the past decade.

“They have acquired some of that background knowledge, but I don’t think that they can speak to their counterparts in Vanuatu, Fiji, Solomon Islands and PNG from the same position as Franzalbert could, as a Pacific Islander,” Dr Chauvel said. (*)

 

Source: RNZI

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Polish man charged over links to Papua arms deal to appear in court

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Jakub Skrzypski, a 39-year Polish citizen visiting Papua as a tourist, was arrested in Wamena in late August on suspicion of being a journalist. Photo: Facebook

Papua, Jubi – The trial of a Polish man charged with treason for allegedly supplying arms to Papuan rebel fighters continues today.

Indonesian prosecutors have demanded 10 years’ jail for Jakub Skrzypski, who was arrested in August last year.

According to his lawyer Jakub Skyrzypski was a tourist who wanted to see the culture, customs and history of Papua.

Instead, he was detained and charged on suspicion of arranging an arms deal with the West Papua Liberation Army, a rebel group which is waging war on state forces.

Mr Skrzypski’s lawyer, Latifah Anum Siregar told the Wamena city court on Wednesday he hasn’t committed a crime by meeting with the armed group, according to a copy of her plea.

The public prosecutor, who has called on ten witnesses in the trial, will respond in court on Thursday.

Judges will deliver a verdict after final responses from both sides on Monday.

Mr Skrzypski is being charged alongside his co-defendant, West Papuan student Simon Carlos Magal, who was arrested in September. (*)

 

Source: RNZI

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