Thousands Join Pro-Referendum Rallies in Papua
Banjir Ambarita,Camelia Pasandaran & Ronna Nirmala
Jayapura. Separate attacks on police and military posts in the restive Papuan district of Puncak Jaya on Tuesday reportedly left one soldier wounded amid pro-referendum rallies elsewhere in Papua.
The attacks, believed to be carried out by the separatist Free Papua Organization (OPM), were the latest in a recent rash of violence that has left several people dead, and coincided with demonstrations by thousands of people across the province to demand a referendum on independence.
Erfi Triassunu, head of the Cendrawasih Military Command, which oversees operations in Papua, said a soldier in Mulia, the Puncak Jaya capital, was injured in an attack by snipers.
“One of our posts was shot at,” he said. “The shot came from far away in the hills.”
Separately, Puncak Jaya Police Chief Alex Korwa said unknown gunmen had also fired on the Mulia base of the police’s Mobile Brigade (Brimob).
“We are still investigating and trying to determine who was responsible,” he said.
The pair of attacks occurred just a day after an early-morning ambush by suspected separatists in Abepura district left four people dead, including an Army officer.
That incident followed weekend clashes between supporters of two local politicians in Puncak Papua district that left 17 dead.
Police said that 16 rebel fighters were believed to have been engaged in a separate firefight with police in Paniai district on Friday.
On Tuesday, Lambert Pekikir, an OPM leader, said his organization was not responsible for the series of attacks.
“The Free Papua Liberation Army is not responsible for the attack in [Abepura],” he said in a phone interview from an undisclosed location.
“The OPM has lowered its arms to respect the peaceful demonstration [on Tuesday] for a referendum. The instruction [for a cease-fire] came from the OPM leader in Sweden, Yacob Pray. I don’t know who is responsible but it is definitely not OPM.”
The main demonstration he was referring to took place in Jayapura, Papua’s provincial capital, where thousands of supporters of the National Committee for West Papua (KNPB) took to the streets in support of a pro-independence event being held in Oxford, England.
Similar rallies were also staged in at least seven major towns in Papua and West Papua provinces, as well as in Jakarta.
Mako Tabuni, the KNPB deputy chairman, said the people of Papua wanted the international community to know about their aspiration for self-determination through peaceful means.
“We want to show the world and Indonesia that the Papuan people want to determine their own fate through an internationally sponsored referendum,” he said.
However, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa played down the significance of the Oxford conference, which is being hosted by the group International Lawyers for West Papua in a bid to bring cases of rampant human rights abuses in Papua before an international tribunal.
“The movement is not that big because they [involve] the same old people,” he said.
“I used to live in England so I know them. Their efforts never gain the support of the British people or government.”
Marty, the former ambassador to Britain, said he was sure the British government would continue to support Indonesia’s policy on special autonomy for Papua.
Demonstrators march to the local parliament during a rally in Jayapura, in Papua province on Tuesday. About 2,000 people took part in the protest to demand a referendum on Papuan independence. Similar rallies were held in at least six other Papuan towns. Reuters Photo