Papua, Jubi – A unity pact struck reportedly by separatist rebel factions in Papua province is an attempt to win public support, the Indonesian military said Friday, while it was still searching for a helicopter that vanished in the region a week earlier with 12 servicemen on board.
The head of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) announced this week that three rebel groups resisting Jakarta’s forces in the far eastern province had agreed on May 1 to come together and unify militarily under the banner of the West Papua Army.
ULMWP’s claims, however, were “a ploy to gain public sympathy,” said Muhammad Aidi, a spokesman in Papua for the Indonesian armed forces (TNI).
“They’ve been saying that for a long time,” he told BenarNews. “For us, whether they are united or divided is not an issue.”
He added a warning.
“No sovereign country will tolerate separatism. Raising an army is a violation of the law. Not only will they have to face the TNI, but also the entire people of Indonesia,” Aidi said.
Maj. Gen. Sisriadi, TNI’s national spokesman, described the Papuan rebels as “criminals.”
“The TNI will continue to assist the police in enforcing the laws in Papua, by looking for and arresting wanted armed criminals who have carried out criminal acts such as the destruction of property, the killing of civilians and other atrocities,” Sisriadi told BenarNews.
“Several important people from the armed criminal groups in Papua have realized their mistakes and surrendered their weapons to the military and promised to work together with the people to develop Papua as an integral part of the Unitary State of Indonesia,” Sisriadi said, referring to rebels.
Search teams, meanwhile, have been out looking every day – weather permitting – but so far have uncovered no traces of the army helicopter that went missing during a flight in remote and densely forested Papua on June 28, Aidi said. Its jungle-clad terrain and limited road networks make air transport vital to the troubled region.
The Russian-made Mil Mi-17 lost contact with ground control a few minutes after lifting off from Oksibil, an administrative center in the mountainous Pegunungan Bintang regency, the military said.
“Still nothing, we have not found any signs of it,” Aidi said, adding that there had been no radio contact with the crew and passengers since the helicopter disappeared.
“There’s still a possibility that the helicopter made an emergency landing. We are still hopeful,” he said.
All 12 people on board were TNI personnel. There was one officer among them, a second lieutenant, according to Aidi.
The crew did not send out any distress signal and officials suspect that bad weather, which can develop rapidly, was a factor. The control tower reported the helicopter missing at an altitude of 7,800 feet (2,400 meters), five minutes after leaving Oksibil, according to the Associated Press.
It had stopped there to refuel while transporting troops and supplies to a border post near Indonesia’s frontier with Papua New Guinea, AP reported.
‘Unity is our strength’
Papua New Guinea is where the three rebel factions – the West Papua Revolutionary Army, the West Papuan National Army and the West Papua National Liberation Army – met in early May and agreed to join forces as a united army against Jakarta rule, according to Benny Wenda, the Britain-based leader of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua.
“This is important because it is the first time all the military factions have come together in the history of our struggle,” Wenda told BenarNews. “Unity is our strength. For the first time ever, we are politically unified under the ULMWP, and militarily unified under the West Papua Army.”
“This development shows the world that we are ready for independence, ready to form a government free from Indonesian colonialism,” he added.
However, a faction of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) led by Jeffrey Bomanak and its armed wing, the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), disputed Wenda’s claims about the unity pact.
“The OPM-National Liberation Army is not part of ULMWP. OPM had existed even before there was ULMWP. We are soldiers, while UMWP is a civilian movement,” Bomanak told BenarNews on Friday.
Sebby Sambom, a spokesman for the West Papua National Liberation Army, said his faction was not involved in the congress in Papua New Guinea that led to the declaration of a unified West Papua Army. TPNPB commanders, such as Goliat Tabuni, Egianus Kogoya and Puron Wenda, did not attend that meeting, he said.
“I heard that the extraordinary congress was held in Vanimo (PNG) in May. But we know nothing about it, so we reject all the outcome,” Sebby told BenarNews.
The Papuan armed separatist movement is often seen as being made up of fractious groups, whose fighters lack modern military equipment. Most of their weapons are traditional instruments such as spears, bows and arrows. The few firearms they possess usually are captured from government security forces.
Hipo Wangge, a researcher at the Marthinus Academy think-tank in Jakarta, cast doubts on Benny’s claim about the establishment of a unified rebel army.
“The nature of the liberation [movement] has been fragmented since the 1960s,” Wangge said.
Increased military activity
Indonesian security forces have intensified operations in Papua after rebels killed 19 road construction workers and a soldier in Nduga regency in December last year.
Indigenous teenagers and boys who appear to be barely adolescent were involved in armed separatist groups in Papua, AP reported last month.
Wenda disputed the report and said the separatist movement was “committed to the full implementation of international law, unlike the illegal Indonesian occupation.”
“Since December 2018, over 30 civilian children have been killed in brutal Indonesian bombing raids and ground operations,” Wenda alleged.
The military and police have denied that civilians were targeted in counter-insurgency operations. Human rights groups have accused Indonesian forces in Papua of committing serious abuses with near impunity.
In December, residents of Nduga were forced to flee to escape clashes between the insurgents and government security forces who were sent to capture those responsible in the killings of the workers who were building the Trans-Papua Highway.
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 has since resumed following the deployment of more than 600 soldiers to secure the project. It is scheduled to be completed later this year.
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)
A tragic story from Deiyai Regent Office
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.
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
JDP: Government must arrange the customary-based dialogue in Papua
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.
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
ULMWP: Military and mass organisation in Surabaya are responsible for demonstration waves in Papua
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.
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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