In­done­sia Hunts Sus­pects After Pa­pua Mass Killings

Fiji Sun - - Pacific News - Con­struc­tion stopped’ ‘will never be Al Jazeera

Se­cu­rity forces in In­done­sia’s eastern prov­ince of Pa­pua are hunt­ing for sep­a­ratist fight­ers sus­pected of mas­sacring at least 19 work­ers build­ing a bridge in the re­gion, a mil­i­tary spokesman said on Wednes­day. The killing of the work­ers is one of the worst out­breaks of vi­o­lence in years in Pa­pua, home to a sim­mer­ing sep­a­ratist con­flict since it was in­cor­po­rated into In­done­sia after a widely crit­i­cised UN-backed ref­er­en­dum in 1969. Colonel Muham­mad Aidi said the num­ber of work­ers killed in the at­tack had been re­vised down to 19 from 24, based on the lat­est ac­counts from four sur­vivors. The sur­vivors were fol­lowed by sep­a­ratist fight­ers to a mil­i­tary post where a sol­dier was killed in a gun­fight, Aidi said by tele­phone from Pa­pua.

“The TNI (In­done­sian mil­i­tary) post was at­tacked on Mon­day morn­ing by a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of the armed group us­ing mil­i­tary grade weapons, as well as spears and ar­rows,” he said.

Mr Aidi said on Tues­day a con­struc­tion worker who took a pho­to­graph of separatists cel­e­brat­ing what they con­sider their in­de­pen­dence day ap­pears to have sparked the killings.

Some Pa­puans re­gard De­cem­ber 1 as their in­de­pen­dence day from Dutch colo­nial rule and hold ral­lies or raise sep­a­ratist flags banned by the Jakarta gov­ern­ment.

The mil­i­tary arm of the sep­a­ratist group, the Free Pa­pua Move­ment (OPM), said on its page on Wednes­day it viewed the work­ers as mem­bers of the mil­i­tary and ca­su­al­ties of a war against the In­done­sian gov­ern­ment.

In­done­sia of­fi­cials say the work­ers were civil­ians em­ployed by state con­struc­tion firm, PT Is­taka Karya, which is build­ing bridges for the Trans Pa­pua high­way. Since com­ing to power in 2014, Pres­i­dent Joko Wi­dodo has pledged to has­ten devel­op­ment and open up ac­cess to the re­source-rich prov­ince, in­clud­ing the Trans Pa­pua road project to link re­mote ar­eas. Mr Wi­dodo said on Wednes­day se­cu­rity for con­struc­tion projects in Pa­pua would be ad­dressed by his gov­ern­ment.

“The con­struc­tion of the Trans Pa­pua road needs to be con­tin­ued and will never be stopped,” he told re­porters.

Pa­pua de­clared it­self an in­de­pen­dent na­tion on that date in 1961, but neigh­bour­ing In­done­sia took con­trol of the re­source-rich re­gion by force in 1963. It of­fi­cially an­nexed Pa­pua in 1969 with a UNbacked vote, widely seen as a sham. Jakarta keeps a tight grip on Pa­pua, which ex­pe­ri­enced sev­eral spasms of vi­o­lence this sum­mer in­clud­ing the killing of three lo­cal peo­ple, al­legedly by rebels. Much of the past vi­o­lence, how­ever, has in­volved skir­mishes be­tween rebel fac­tions and In­done­sian se­cu­rity forces.

The mil­i­tary has long been ac­cused of rights abuses against Pa­pua’s eth­nic Me­lane­sian pop­u­la­tion in­clud­ing ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings of ac­tivists and peace­ful pro­test­ers.

Photo: Reuters

Fam­ily of vic­tims gather as they await news of at least 24 con­struc­tion work­ers who were killed in Pa­pua re­gion.

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