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Indonesia

Papua struggles for calm as killings continue

Fatal stabbing of church worker reignites tension, prompts warning by police chief

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Papua struggles for calm as killings continue

Residents from Manggarai in East Nusa Tenggara return to their hometowns by ship on Oct. 11 to avoid the deadly conflict in Papua. (Photo supplied)

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A police chief in the Indonesian province of Papua has demanded the immediate restoration of law and order in the town of Wamena, the scene of deadly violence in recent weeks, after another senseless killing.

Deri Datu Padang, a laborer from Sulawesi, was stabbed to death on Oct. 12 after carrying out repairs to a Catholic church.

Regional police chief Paulus Waterpauw reminded officers during a meeting in Wamena on Oct. 14 of the urgent need for them to step up security operations and allay public fears.

The outrage following the attack has heightened the tension in Jayawijaya district, just as police and security forces are battling to restore calm after the riots of Sept. 23 that killed 35 people, injured hundreds and saw hundreds of homes and other public buildings burned.

Despite the government’s vows to improve security and rebuild damaged facilities, business and schools have been unable to operate normally and migrants have continued to leave the area.

Father Gabriel Ngga, the provincial of the Franciscans in Papua, said the Wamena area was still paralyzed.

“Schools are quiet as teachers have fled and the children are still traumatized,” he told ucanews. “I visited several schools — I only saw a few children playing around for a while before returning home.”

He explained that a further concern was a growing suspicion between migrants and native Papuans. “I found that people no longer greet each other on the street,” he said. “This condition is very different from my previous experience.”

Officials said that in the last month about 10,000 migrants had quit Wamena and moved to other cities such as Jayapura.

Anselmus Narang, who works in Jayapura, said he and other volunteers had helped 95 people who chose to return by boat to their hometowns in Flores on Oct. 11, while others were still waiting for their departure schedule.

“We have asked the East Nusa Tenggara government to help them return home because they have nothing left due to the recent conflict in Wamena,” he said.

Unfair treatment of Papuans

Father John Djonga, a prominent human rights activist based in Wamena, warned that this tension could escalate at any time if there was no sign of a rapprochement between warring factions.

He explained that the Papuans’ experience of violence for decades was exacerbated by the strengthening of sentiment that indigenous Papuans had been treated unfairly compared with non-Papuans.

He cited the current situation in Wamena and several other cities, including Lani Jaya, Yahukimo and Agats, where thousands of indigenous Papuans are still confined after fleeing the conflict in Nduga last December, soon after the killing of construction workers by a separatist group.

“Papuans see that the Nduga refugees are ignored. On the other hand, the government quickly shows how much it cares when migrants have problems,” he said.

The priest hoped the government would not make Papuans second-class citizens in their own land.

Gilbert Yakwar, spokesman for the Papua provincial government, said it had poured 35 billion rupiah (US$2.48 million) to repair public and business facilities such as shops in Wamena.

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