Monday, February 12, 2007

Rebel group causes displacement in Puncak Jaya

Thousands of indigenous Papuans have reportedly been seeking refuge since 6 January in Puncak Jaya regency, Papua province, from an open war between the army and and police troops and members of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) rebel group under Goliath Tabuni. The Association of Papua Churches (PGGP), after having conducted a visit to Puncak Jaya, announced that some 2,000 Papuans had already taken refuge in other villages and some 5,000 were facing hunger. They were living in desperate conditions. Children have suffered from diarrhea, hepatitis and malaria, which are the most common illnesses. Four refugees have already died, namely Tanno Talenggen, 50; Laya Morib, 30; Mitiles Morib, 20; and Walia Wonda, 41.

The Puncak Jaya regency administration and the Trikora Military Command -- which oversees Papua and Papua Barat provinces -- through its spokesman Lt. Col. Imam Santoso, in Jayapura, denied the church report. The PGGP, according to the security forces' spokesman, gave "false information."

According to the local government and the military, the Papuans took refuge in order to avoid the attack launched not by the Indonesian security forces but by the OPM members. According to the churches, people were seeking refuge because they were afraid of being attacked both by the Indonesian security forces and the OPM. Thousands of Papuans might be seeking refuge because they are afraid of being suspected of being members of the OPM by the Indonesian security forces, as acknowledged by the head of Yamo district.

Neles Tebay, a professor at the Fajar Timur School of Philosophy and Theology in Abepura, Papua, writes that "as long as the root cause of Papuan separatism is not tackled these Papuans might continue to be suspected of being supporters or collaborators of the Papuan separatist group led by Goliat Tabuni. The deployment of more troops and the establishment of more military and police stations does not necessarily bring about lasting stability.

"The central and provincial governments are facing the challenge of providing human security for the Papuans, without which they cannot work for themselves, participate in the development of their villages or improve their future prospects. The government and representatives of the Papuan people can together work out the content of the conflict-prevention policy through a peaceful dialog facilitated by a neutral third party. Whether this dialog happens depends very much on the Jakarta-based government. Jakarta's unwillingness to engage in a dialog with the Papuans could be perceived by the Papuans as the government ignoring the suffering of indigenous Papuans." - (JP)

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