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Measles kill dozens of children in Papua, government sends military

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Illustration malnutrition among Asmat children – IST

Jakarta, Jubi – Indonesian authorities are struggling to contain a months-long outbreak of measles in easternmost Papua province that has killed dozens of children.

Stefanus Lange, a doctor at a state-run hospital in Papua’s Asmat district, said Tuesday (January 16) that cases were first detected in September, but a lack of access to remote areas, insufficient personnel and the high mobility of villagers hampered treatment and vaccination efforts.

Lange said 36 victims died in Pulau Tiga sub-district and 22 died in Agats, the main town and capital of Asmat district. He did not rule out the possibility of a higher number of victims since reports have not been received from some sub-districts.

Papua and neighboring West Papua are the poorest provinces in Indonesia and home to a decades-old independence movement and armed insurgency. The region is culturally and ethnically distinct from the rest of Indonesia, which annexed it in the early 1960s.

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Data from hospitals showed a total of 568 people had been treated for measles since September and 175 required hospitalizations.

The data also showed that one child died in Pulau Tiga of malnutrition, which has plagued some villages in the district.

More than 50 doctors and paramedics from Indonesia’s military have gone to Papua province to battle a measles outbreak that has killed dozens of children. They carry food and vaccines to a remote part of the area.

The Indonesian military has sent 53 personnel including paramedics, besides medical equipment, vaccines and 11,100 packages of instant food.

Map of Asmat Regency – IST

Malnutrition and slow response

“We are handling the situation,” Health Minister Nila Moeloek told Reuters, blaming similar previous incidents on several factors.

“There is a link between the malnutrition and (catching) other diseases,” Moeloek added. “If you’re undernourished, you will get those diseases.”

The ministry said it was still trying to estimate the number of deaths but daily newspaper Kompas on Monday said at least 61 infants had died.

Many Papuans, who are predominantly Christian and a minority in the Muslim-majority country, criticise the government in Jakarta for neglecting Papua and instead being too focused on the densely-populated island of Java.

Catholic priest and rights activist John Jonga, blamed the crisis on a lack of vaccinations and a switch from more nutritious tubers to rice as a staple food.

He said he had voiced questions over Widodo’s policy of sending aid to Palestine and Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority, rather than to Papua at a recent seminar at the Indonesia Institute of Sciences in Jakarta, the capital.

“We are lacking health facilities,” Jonga said. “That’s why in the seminar I asked why the president was busy with Myanmar and building a hospital in Gaza. Whereas in Papua, we have problems, difficulties with drugs and medical workers.”

Head of Communication and Community Services Bureau of Health Ministry – IST

One minister denied the extent of the health crisis had taken the government by surprise.

“We have anticipated this since September 2017,” Puan Maharani, the coordinating minister for human development, told reporters.

“The location in Asmat is not easy to monitor. We have asked the health ministry to coordinate for this (health crisis) to be evaluated.”

But as reported by Aljazeera (December 17), Oscar Primadi, Head of Communication and Community Services Bureau of Health Ministry has admitted it has been too slow to respond to a health crisis in the eastern province of Papua.

“But we need to focus on how we have to deal it right now,” he said to reporter.(AP/Reuters/Aljazeera/Zely A)

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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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Deputy Regent confirms eight civilians killed in the shooting incident at Deiyai Regent Office

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

Nabire, Jubi – Deiyai Deputy Regent Hengky Pigai said the local government continue to update data on victims during the anti-racism protest on Wednesday (28/08/2019) at Deiyai Regent Office.

“Eight civilians were killed in the incident, while 16 injured people are in the Paniai Public Hospital in Madi for treatment. However, some victims have not found yet. So, this is a temporary finding,” Pigai told Jubi journalist Zely Ariane via telephone from Waghete on Friday.

Despite the number of victims, Pigai declined to specify the names of the victims. However, he asserted that the local government still would continue to verify the data of other victims because some protesters escaped to the jungle when the incident occurred.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Ministry of Justice and Peace of the Synod of Kingmi Church in Papua Yones Douw said the church had identified seven victims killed in the incident. Moreover, Douw, who also known as a human right activist, said they also get information about a victim died in the Panian Public Hospital in Madi. However, his identity remains not verified yet.

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Among the victims, there are three of them died in the hospital. “The are Alpius Pigai, 20 years old, Pilemon Waine, 28 years old, and Aminadab Potuki, 24 years old. We can verify their identities because their bodies are now with the families,” said Douw.

Meanwhile, four people died at the scene already taken by their families without taking to the hospital. “They are Derikson Adii, 21 years old, Hans Ukago, 26 years old, Marinus Ikomouw, 37 years old, and Yemii Douw, 29 years old,” told Yones Douw by phone to Jubi reporter from Nabire on Saturday.

Concerning the recent update on another victim died in the hospital, Douw said he could not confirm it yet. “So we still adhere to our latest verification that so far the number of dead is seven,” he said.

Meanwhile, Father Santon Tegeke Pr from Timika Diocese in Deiyai Regency told that the diocese had received information about eight civilians killed at Deiyai Regent Office. However, he admitted difficulties to verify the data on the dead victims because the Paniai Public Hospital in Madi kept the information on both dead and injured people.

“We received the information that eight people killed in the incident, but no detail information about their names and age. I came to meet the hospital management in Madi, but they refused to provide data of the victims, either dead or injured. The number of victims might increase because locals reported some protesters fled to the jungle. However, they cannot check their condition because the security forces are still at the scene,” Father Santo told Zely Ariane by phone on Saturday.

Moreover, Deiyai Regent Ateng Edoway invited him and other local community leaders on Friday. “The regent already received the name of victims who died at the Paniai Public Hospital from the hospital director. However, he said we could not announce their names at the moment,” said Father Santon. (*)

Reporter: Zely Ariane/Hengky Yeimo
Editor: Pipit Maizier

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