Military Says Troop Levels in Papua Sufficient

Military Says Troop Levels in Papua Sufficient

Jakarta Globe
Markus Junianto Sihaloho & Sally Piri

Despite increasing security disturbances in Papua Province, the military does not plan to deploy additional troops to the country's easternmost province, military chief Gen. Djoko Santoso said on Monday.

"As far I'm concerned, there is no need to deploy more troops in that province. Instead, we will increase our profile at each security post in the area," Djoko said, adding that troops assigned to the posts would be drawn from forces already in Papua.

One soldier, identified as Pvt. Saiful Jusuf from the Eme Neme Kangase Infantry Battalion, was killed in an attack by a group of armed separatists that took place near a security post in Tingginambut in Puncak Jaya subdistrict last Saturday.

Army spokesman Brig. Gen. Christian Zebua said earlier that the attackers were members of the Free Papua Movement, or OPM, under the command of Goliath Tabuni, an OPM leader from the Dani tribe who is believed by security agencies to be responsible for several previous attacks in the area.

The OPM is believed to be responsible for the killing of several soldiers in October 2004 along Papua's Trans Wamena-Mulia Road.

'To anyone who might trigger a security threat, please do not force the police to use guns'

Juwono Sudarsono

Djoko said on Monday that the number of troops now in that province was sufficient to handle security threats from the OPM, whose forces remain poorly equipped.

He added that he had also asked the commander of the Cendrawasih Military Command in Papua, Maj. Gen. AY Nasution, to cooperate with local police officers in hunting the alleged culprits in the recent shooting.

Separatist sentiment in Papua is said to be fueled by dissatisfaction among native Papuans over the distribution of wealth derived from the province's abundance of natural resources.

National Police Chief Bambang Hendarso Danuri said on Monday that police had stepped up security across Indonesia for the 20-day legislative election campaign.

"We have reinforced our strength within all city police units. During the police coordination meetings and teleconferences, I ordered all officers to be present in all parts of their regions," Bambang said after accompanying President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to an address at the State Palace.

Bambang also said that police had tightened security in Papua by increasing the number of police officers sent to Jayawijaya. "There is a group of 100 officers from the police elite unit [Brimob] in Jayawijaya District Command," he said.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono, on Monday said that with the country nearing elections it was normal for security agencies to encounter rising tensions.

He said that all national security agencies, especially the military and police, had made a commitment to safeguarding the elections from any threat.

At the same time, Juwono said that the government had also instructed military and police personnel to refrain from using guns unless they were forced to do so.

He warned all groups, including the OPM, against fanning the flames of unrest ahead the polls.

"To anyone who might trigger a security threat, please do not force the military or police to use guns," Juwono said.