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Underage fighters are drawn into Indonesian conflict

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In this photo taken in May 2019, and released by the West Papua Liberation Army-Free Papua Organization, men and boys from the West Papua Liberation Army pose with weapons in the Nduga region of the central highlands, Papua province, Indonesia. (West Papua Liberation Army-Free Papua Organization via AP)

Papua, Jubi — The long-simmering armed conflict between Indonesia’s military and Papuans seeking independence includes indigenous teenagers and boys who appear barely adolescent, The Associated Press has found, highlighting how Indonesia’s heavy-handed attempts to extinguish the movement have produced a new generation of fighters.

The West Papua Liberation Army, which has fought Indonesian control in the easternmost region since the early 1960s, and Papuans who peacefully advocate independence acknowledge that youngsters are involved in the conflict. But they also describe them as willing participants who fight against the Indonesian state because of military operations in Papua.

International law defines a child as under 18 years old and the recruitment and use of children under 15 for military purposes is a war crime under the 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Nearly 170 countries including Indonesia have ratified a U.N. treaty that obliges governments to stop military recruitment of anyone under 18 and to work toward ending the military exploitation of children by state and non-state armed groups.

Sebby Sambom, a Liberation Army spokesman who lives in neighbouring Papua New Guinea, acknowledged that combatants include people under 18, describing it as part of West Papua’s history and struggle for independence.

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The Papuan fighters have never been well armed but have battled Indonesia since it took control of the mineral-rich region from the Dutch in 1962. Papuans, who had declared their independence the year before, see Indonesians as invaders who cemented control with a sham referendum at the end of the 1960s.

For the Indonesian government, Papua is a rich prize endowed with mineral resources it says it will never give up. Officials say the territory is rightfully Indonesia’s under international law because it was part of the Dutch East Indies empire that is the basis for Indonesia’s modern borders.

The existence of child soldiers “is a sign that the West Papuan conflict is far more serious than the world acknowledges,” said Veronica Koman, a human rights lawyer who has frequently called attention to alleged police and military abuses in the region.

West Papua needs urgent international intervention, because child soldiers are themselves victims. The Indonesian government’s security approach has created an intractable conflict by brutalizing generation after generation of West Papuans,” she said.

A photo taken in May by a Liberation Army member in the Nduga area of the central highlands in Papua shows four males who appear to range in age from pre-teen to adolescent, with four older men also the same group, all holding military-style weapons.

A video recorded by the independence fighters in the same area earlier this year shows some of the same boys, one holding a rifle, and other possible adolescents standing at attention among a group of about 40 armed men who had assembled to hear a speech about their military victories since 2017.

Also in the video is Ekianus Kogeya, who turned 19 in May and is described by the Liberation Army as a brigadier general and its commander in the Nduga area, after taking over from his father Silas Elmin Kogeya, who reportedly died several years ago.

It is unclear how many teens are directly involved in the conflict or what specific roles they play, but with several hotspots it could be at least dozens.

Victor Mambor, editor of Papuan news site Tabloid Jubi, told AP he was unexpectedly contacted by a group of 20 fighters in January while reporting on the humanitarian crisis in Nduga. Thousands of civilians have been displaced by a security crackdown following a December attack that killed 19 construction workers. The group was three-quarters teenage boys, some 15-16 years old, he said.

This group didn’t speak too much. They are only talking about ‘We are not criminals, not terrorists, we fight for our people,’” he said.

Those teenagers have no hope in their own land,” Mambor said. “There is no job for them if they finish school. Many soldiers in their villages. Maybe their only hope to exist is to hold a weapon.”

Groups campaigning to end the use of child soldiers say they are sometimes forcibly recruited but can also join militaries and armed groups because of cultural pressures, for protection or money to escape desperate poverty. Children in conflicts, whether as combatants or in other roles such as porters, face a high risk of being abused, killed or maimed and those that survive can suffer profound psychological and social problems.

Papua is not mentioned in the U.N. secretary-general’s yearly report on states and groups using child soldiers, and international awareness of the situation in Papua is low. Indonesia’s restrictions on foreign journalists and organizations operating in the region has kept it mostly hidden from world attention. Rights groups criticize the U.N.’s list for being politicized and incomplete.

Papua makes up nearly a quarter of Indonesia’s land area and is rich in tropical forests and mineral resources including one of the world’s largest gold and copper mines. Even so, vast areas remain outside of Indonesian control due to being remote, mountainous and thickly jungled.

An influx of migrants from other parts of Indonesia has made Papuans an economically and politically marginalized minority in some lowland areas, adding fuel to the conflict. But highland areas about the size of Britain are populated mainly by Papuans.

Attempts to break up that jungled fortress with the construction of a trans-Papua highway have become a new flashpoint in the conflict. The highway looms as an existential threat for Papuans already reeling from the impact of high infant mortality, bouts of famine, the rampant spread of HIV/AIDS and an unknown number of deaths from Indonesian military campaigns since the 1960s.

Papuan activists fear the highway will result not in economic development but in the total dispossession of their land.

Sambom, who described youngsters involved with the Liberation Army as “children” and “young men,” said children of independence fighters grow up in the jungle, have “bitter experiences due to brutal (Indonesian) military operations” and automatically become fighters.

This situation applies in all of the central highlands of Papua, which are areas of war conflict,” he said in an email. “They grow up and become Papuan freedom fighters, namely continuing the struggle of their parents.”

In a telephone interview, he didn’t answer questions about the number of teenage or child combatants or their specific roles in the conflict. He said the children of Papuan fighters don’t attend school, partly because they fear they’ll be kidnapped or killed by the Indonesian military.

The Indonesian military spokesman in Papua, Muhammad Aidi, said Papuan fighters killed by Indonesian forces are mostly 20-40 years old. He said he had not seen any direct evidence of child combatants but in some remote areas children aspired to join the West Papua Liberation Army.

If we ask some children in the remote region of Mapenduma about their dreams in the future, their answer is to become an OPM (Free Papua Organization) fighter,” he said. “Because they don’t know the outside world.”

He said anyone under 18 who attacked Indonesian security forces with arms would not be spared.

The threat is the same as adults who can kill us with their guns,” he said. (Stephen Wright, The Associated Press)

Source: citynews1130.com

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A story of Ruth Dolly Pagawak, Papuan woman who recovered from Covid-19

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Ruth Dolly Pagawak. -Jubi/Hans

Manokwari, Jubi – Ruth Dolly Pagawak, twenty years old Papuan woman who declared negatives after two swab checks, could go home. She finally can meet her baby and the rest of her family on Saturday afternoon, 16 May 2020 after being quarantined at Papua Barat Provincial Hospital.

Along with Pagawak, other patients H. Abdullah Appe (62 years old) and La Marra (65 years old) were also declared has recovered from the Coronavirus. Papua Barat Governor Dominggus Mandacan officially take three of them out of the hospital.

While wearing a mask and holding her health certificate tightly, Pagawak told that her recovery is God’s blessing. “This is because of the grace of Lord Jesus that I was declared recovered of the Coronavirus,” said Pagawak holding a bucket of flowers by her doctors and nurses.

During her medical treatment at the hospital, Pagawak always listened to doctors and the medical team who treated her. She declared that listening to the government and medical staffs’ advice during the treatment is very important. By doing that, the body immune will stronger to combat the virus.

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“During my treatment, I routinely consumed vitamins and complied the doctors’ orders. I was also tried not being stressful because I believed that I would recover,” she said.

Since she was tested positive of Coronavirus in the mid of April, Pagawak has not experienced the most severe symptom. She claimed to only experience light symptoms such as cough and runny nose.

“I never experienced severe symptoms such as shortness of breath. I just had a cold and a mild cough.”

As the first Papuan woman who recovers from Coronavirus in Papua Barat, Pagawak advised people, in particular native Papuans, not to underestimate this virus. Still, they also do not need to overwhelm panic.

“The point is we must remain vigilant. Wear a mask, wash our hand routinely and get enough rest. We cannot avoid this virus because it is not visible. Therefore, we must follow all medical advice by the government, and never forget to pray and beg for mercy and recovery from God,” she said.

Pagawak told that she initially didn’t believe in her initial test confirming that she was Coronavirus positive because she was in the postpartum period. But with the support and permission of her husband, she finally agreed to take an initial medical treatment at Manokwari Hospital separately from her baby. She then continued to quarantine at Papua Barat Provincial Hospital since 1 May.

“I initially didn’t believe that I am Coronavirus positive. I just delivered my first child, who was six weeks at the time. So, when they took my baby and me from Warmare Subdistrict to Manokwari Hospital, we were treated separately,” she said.

This young mother also thanked the quarantine team of Papua Barat Provincial Hospital because of treating her and other patients sincerely and pouring them with encouragement and motivation.

“Personally, I thank the medical team, doctors and everybody who involved in Papua Barat Provincial Hospital. They are noble-hearted people because they treated us nicely. They are warm and always motivate us; therefore, we remain motivated to recover,” she said.

The information from the Covid-19 Task Force Papua Barat stated that Pagawak’s baby is currently undergoing treatment by a paediatrician at Manokwari Hospital. The baby, on the contrary, was declared negative since the initial examination and treated separately from the mother.
Meanwhile, Papua Barat Governor Dominggus Mandacan hopes that local community and neighbours of the recovered patients to accept them when they return to their family and neighbourhood.

“I hope people can accept them when they return to their family. Their recovery was also the hard work of the Papua Barat Provincial medical staff as well as our prayers,” said Mandacan at the Papua Barat Hospital on Saturday (16/5/2020). (*)

 

 

Reporter: Hans Kapisa

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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Joyce Lin, a pilot of MAF crashed plane was also an IT specialist graduate from MIT

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Joyce Lin. – maf.org

Jayapura, Jubi – An aircraft operated by Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) was reportedly being crashed and drown in Lake Sentani on Tuesday (12/5/2020). Locals reported the incident after hearing an explosion. After two minutes take-off from Sentani Airport to Mamit, Tolikara Regency, the aircraft lost contact with the air traffic control tower.

Tolikara Regent Usman Wanimbo told Jubi that the crashed aircraft was possibly carrying books and stationeries for Yayasan Papua Harapan based in Mamit. President GIDI, the Rev. Dorman Wandikbo, also said the same thing.

“The aircraft was carrying school books and stationeries to Mamit,” said the Rev. Wandikbo by phone to Jubi. The pilot of the crashed plane later identified as Joyce Lin, a US citizen. Her body found at a depth of 13 meters in Lake Sentani.

Joyce, according to the Rev. Wandikbo, had just flown in Papua, although she had many experiences flying the small aircraft.

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The website maf.org acknowledges Joyce Lin as a pilot and IT specialist. As a pilot, she flew the aircraft to help people living in remote and isolated areas by providing medical evacuation service for saving a life. She also transported logistic supplies for community development, missionaries, teachers, and humanitarian workers to these remote locations. Meanwhile, as an IT specialist, Joyce work to set up and maintain the computer networks for missionaries and humanitarian workers to contact their communities and to access information on the Internet.

Joyce Lin grew up in Colorado and Maryland. She involved in a non-denomination local evangelist church service from a young age. At the age of eight, she showed her interest in everything linked with computers, mainly computer programming. Her interest in aviation also developed at an early age when her neighbouring pilot took her to the local air show.

She later took the computer science in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and received a Bachelor of Science and Masters of Engineering from the MIT. Because she had an interest in aviation, she also obtained a certificate of the private pilot while still in college.

After graduation, Joyce Lin worked as a computer specialist at a commercial company for ten years until obtaining a position of the Director of Engineering, while growing her enthusiasm towards seminary at the same time. She then registered as a student at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and graduated with a Master of Divinity. While studying theology there, she learned about the missionary flying service. It surprised her when knowing that there is a job that can combine her interest in computers, aviation and Christianity service at once. From there, she found a strong call to work as a missionary pilot. She had instrument certification and commercial flying certificate and experience working as a flight instructor to meet the requirement as a pilot for MAF. (*)

 

Reporter: Victor Mambor

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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The body of crashed MAF aircraft found 13 meters below water

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Lake Sentani. -Ist

Jayapura, Jubi – Roberth Tunyanan from KNKT (the National Transportation Safety Committee) Papua said the body of a pilot killed in the crashed aircraft was found in Lake Sentani on Tuesday morning.

“I received the report stating the Rescue Team had found the body of MAF pilot flying the aircraft PK-MEC in Lake Sentani,” Tunyanan as quoted by Antara News Agency on Tuesday morning (12/5/2020).

The report also revealed that her body found at a depth of 13 meters trapped in the cockpit.

The website maf.org acknowledges Joyce Lin as a pilot and IT specialist. As a pilot, she flew the aircraft to help people living in remote and isolated areas by providing medical evacuation service for saving a life. She also transported logistic supplies for community development, missionaries, teachers, and humanitarian workers to these remote locations. Meanwhile, as an IT specialist, Joyce work to set up and maintain the computer networks for missionaries and humanitarian workers to contact their communities and to access information on the Internet.

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The aircraft controlled by Joyce Lin reportedly crashed around Lake Sentani that located between Jayapura Municipality and Jayapura Regency in Papua Province. The aeroplane took off at 6.27 a.m. local time and lost contact two minutes after take-off. (*)

 

Reporter: Victor Mambor

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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