Papuans Refute Yudhoyono’s ‘Small’ Claim
Banjir Ambarita & Markus Junianto Sihaloho
Jayapura. A day after the president described the scale of violence in Papua as “small,” a coalition of Papuan churches called the situation in the province an emergency and urged the international community to intervene.
Rev. Benny Giay, chairman of the Kingmi Papuan Evangelical Church, a member of the Working Coalition for Papua, said on Wednesday that Papua had become an emergency zone because of a surge in unresolved shootings and violence.
“International humanitarian bodies, including the United Nations, should intervene because the TNI [Indonesian Armed Forces] and the police have failed to end the violence and crimes against humanity here,” Benny said in Jayapura, the provincial capital.
While the Indonesian authorities have pointed to the Free Papua Organization (OPM) as the group behind the shootings, Benny said they had been unable to prove their claims and arrest the perpetrators.
“If the OPM is the perpetrator, then arrest them, don’t just shift the blame and look for a scapegoat,” said Benny, a respected religious leader and human rights advocate in the province.
The Rev. Socrates Sofyan Nyoman, chairman of the Papuan Baptist Church Council and a member of the coalition, accused the government of deliberately allowing the violence to continue.
“It seems like a systematic move to create horizontal conflict among Papuans by spreading rumors that it’s the Papuans who are behind the shootings,” he said.
The coalition demanded an international observer to mediate a dialogue between Jakarta and Papuan representatives in a bid to foster permanent peace in the province.
Socrates said special autonomy, which has channeled trillions of rupiah each year to the province, had failed to quell aspirations to break away from Indonesia.
“The state has failed to make Papuans feel part of Indonesia,” he said.
Poengky Indarti, chairwoman of the rights group Imparsial, also demanded that the TNI and the police prove their accusations against the OPM.
“The president has accused the separatist movement of the shootings. So why have the police failed to arrest the perpetrators?” she said.
At least seven people have been killed and nine injured in a series of unresolved shootings across Papua in the past two months. TNI soldiers attacked a village in Wamena last Thursday, reportedly in retaliation for the killing of a fellow soldier by an angry mob after he and another soldier almost hit a child while riding a motorcycle through the village.
A German tourist was also shot and wounded on May 29. In the latest case, a security guard at Cendrawasih University in Jayapura was killed.
Despite the attacks, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said on Tuesday that the scale of the violence in Papua was “limited and small,” adding it was nothing compared to the bloodshed in the Middle East. His remark drew criticism from members of the House of Representatives.
“Yudhoyono should express regret and directly apologize to the Papuan people,” said Paskalis Kossay, a coordinator of the Papuan caucus at the House, adding that the statement showed a lack of seriousness in addressing the problem.