Residents live normal life amid frequent attacks

The Jakarta Post- March 6, 2009
Special Report: Residents live normal life amid frequent attacks by separatists
by Irawaty Wardany, PUNCAK JAYA

Though residents of Puncak Jaya regency in Papua often face threats from separatist rebels, that has not seemed to deter them from carrying out their daily activities in peace.

Puncak Jaya is deemed a stronghold of Independent Papua Organization (OPM) forces in the country's easternmost province.

A recent attack by suspected separatist gunmen on a police post in Tingginambut district, Puncak Jaya, as well as shots fired on a trader's shop have not cowed local residents.

"People no longer consider such incidents as extraordinary events," local police officer Second Brig. Sigit told The Jakarta Post recently.

He added residents here were used to such attacks by OPM members, as well as tribal wars that broke out frequently.

Local resident Yosen Kogoya said people were not afraid of separatist attacks because they seldom disturbed local residents, targeting only police or military officers and their facilities.

"It's true that some local villagers have been persuaded to join separatist forces, but many others still live as usual and support the local administration," he said.

"That's because the government gives us more help, such as by developing infrastructure or providing health facilities and others, while the OPM does not give us any benefits."

Yosen cited the case of a resident of Yamoneri village in Ilu district, known to have joined the OPM, who was ordered to leave his village right away by the village head.

"He was ordered to no longer stick around the village, or else his neighbors would report him directly to the police," he said.

Heri Dosinaen, an assistant to the Puncak Jaya administration secretary, admitted the security condition was highly unstable in the regency.

"I think the OPM movement exists because of political problems that have not yet been resolved between the Indonesian police and military elites," he said.

The elites treated Papua as their "field" of games by controlling OPM forces, he added.

"We *the regional administration* have to bear the burden from their messes."

Heri said many schools had been burned down by separatist rebels several months ago, with the latest incident being the shooting incident last Saturday in Tingginambut district.

"Thankfully, there were no casualties in the shooting," he said.

He added the local administration had set up security posts at several spots considered potential conflict areas, but pointed out that limited human resources often led to a failure to control the situation.

Heri also said most OPM activities used to be focused in and around coastal villages, but had since 1999 moved further inland to remote areas located in the mountains, so that separatists could hide when fleeing counter attacks by soldiers and police officers.

"We have no idea what their mission is," Heri said.

"But I can tell you that it must have something to do with political interests."