Deadly shooting sparks local election fears in Papua

Indonesian church leaders call for calm after three people killed, aircraft shot at in run-up to governor election
Deadly shooting sparks local election fears in Papua

Human rights activist and priest Father John Djonga has called on people to keep the peace during and after the governor election on June 27. (Photo by Ryan Dagur)

A deadly shooting that saw three people killed and an attack on an aircraft carrying election material and police officers in Indonesia's restive Papua province has sparked concerns among church leaders that this week's governor election could see further violence.

Papua province is among 17 provinces, 115 districts and 39 municipalities holding elections on June 27.

On June 25, unidentified gunmen shot at a Twin Otter aircraft carrying election material and 15 police personnel who were to provide security at the poll.

According to police, the shots came from woodland shortly after the plane landed at Kenyam Airport in Nduga regency. The pilot was injured in the attack.

The police also claimed the attackers also shot at civilians at the airport, killing three and injuring three others.

The attack came three days after another aircraft was fired upon at the same airport.

Father John Djonga, an activist priest called for all parties to "work hand-in-hand to ensure peace" during the election.

"All parties should allow Papuans to exercise their electoral rights without any fear," he told on June 26.

"There should be no bloodshed just because of an election. We choose a leader for five years, but peace must be maintained forever," said the priest who has worked for more than 20 years in Papua's remote areas.

Jakarta considers Papua — where most of the Christian majority has long complained of rights abuses and demanded independence or greater autonomy — the most high-risk region for violence at these elections.

According to Association for Elections and Democracy, 71 people were killed during elections in 2010 and 2014 in various districts.

Reverend Benny Giay of the Synod of Christian Churches in Papua called on his congregation to support peaceful elections.

"Local elections must not cause casualties among civilians," he said, adding certain elements wanted to use the election to destroy Papua.

He urged Papuans "not to be emotional, promote dialogue and respects political differences."

Papua police spokesman, Ahmad Mustofa Kamal, said a hunt was on for the airport attackers, and that security was being stepped up.

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"We guarantee that the election will still be held," he said.

An additional 3,700 police and military personnel have been drafted in to ensure it takes place, he added.

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