Papua Calm After Deadly Incidents

Papua Calm After Deadly Incidents

The Jakarta Post

Papuans celebrated Good Friday peacefully, after a series of violent incidents in Abepura district, Jayapura, marred the previous day’s polling.

Public transportation services resumed operations as normal, while residents flocked to traditional markets, shops and grocery stores.

"This safe and conducive situation has allowed Christians here to conduct Easter mass freely, and followers of other faiths to go about their activities on peace," local resident Maksimus Solo said as quoted by Antara.

He admitted most residents were gripped by fear Thursday after learning about attacks on security posts and the Abepura Police station, as well as a fire that razed state-run Cendrawasih University.

Unidentified gunmen assaulted the security post at the Skaw Wutung border between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea at 1 a.m. No casualties were reported.

Half an hour later, the Abepura Police station was attacked by about 50 men armed with homemade bombs, spears, cleavers, bows and cassowary bones. Police officers shot into the crowd, killing one attacker and injuring eight others.

At daybreak, the rector’s building at Cendrawasih University, 5 kilometers from the police station, was set ablaze by unknown people. The fire razed documents and badly damaged the building, but claimed no fatalities.

On Wednesday evening, unknown assailants stabbed five ojek (motorcycle taxi) drivers in Wamena, leaving four of them and the fifth in critical condition.

Two hours later, a fuel storage tank at state oil company PT Pertamina’s depot in Biak exploded, killing a bystander.

Papua Governor Barnabas Suebu said the explosion was simply an accident, while the attacks were intended to disrupt the elections in Papua.

The Papuan Church Communion has sent a letter to the governor ahead of Easter to voice its concern over the dire security situation.

"Calamity, disease, accidents and violence never seem to leave our daily lives. Many people live in worry and fear," the letter, dated April 8 and made available to The Jakarta Post, read.

The communion expressed concern over the arrests of youth activists charged with sedition.

It also questioned an April 3 raid on the Papua Customary Council office, claiming it was done without proper legal basis. Police seized and destroyed equipment from the office and arrested 15 activists over an issue of International Lawyers for West Papua (ILWP) abroad.

Police earlier said the men were arrested for their alleged involvement in a subversion movement.

The arrests continued on April 6 and 7, with dozens of West Papua National Committee activists detained for sedition.

The communion also pointed out the climate of fear spawned by the recent violence in the Tingginambut area, Puncak Jaya regency, which was reminiscent of similar violence around Christmas time in 2006 and 2007 that forced many people to seek refuge.