We changed the nation, says O’Neill

By GYNNIE KERO. The National PNG

FORMER Prime Minister Peter O’Neill
FORMER Prime Minister Peter O’Neill

FORMER Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, pictured, has defended the record of the government he led up to May, saying “we changed the nation by building infrastructure needed”.

He also condemned plans by the current government to cut back on expenditure in the Supplementary Budget to be tabled by Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey on Thursday.

“Ian Ling-Stuckey condemns the eight years of economic management under myself, James Marape as Finance Minister and Patrick Pruaitch as Treasurer,” O’Neill said.

“This is just political opportunism from the treasurer and is causing a great deal of internal conflict in Cabinet.

“No one can deny that we changed the nation by building the infrastructure our country badly needed.

“Cabinet with James and Patrick saw a rise in debt. But you just have to look around and ask if we advanced the country.

“Did we build the infrastructure that Port Moresby needed – roads, bridges, the flyovers and port facilities? Yes we did.

“Around the country, did we build new hospitals and care centres? Did we build teacher training colleges? Did we build new air strips? Yes we did.”
He said the supplementary budget “appears to be a turn-out-the-lights budget”.

“This ridiculous cost-cutting for the sake of politics will bring our country to its knees and hurt our people who are in the most challenging circumstances,” he said.

He said Ling-Stuckey had claimed that under his management of the economy there would be no more debt.

“But Prime Minister (Marape) overruled him and said debt would be consolidated in Australia and China,” O’Neill said.

Jihad is coming to the Pacific
Open statement of Jihad Group in Central Java, Indonesia

It’s not just West Papua‘s 2 million Christians who are vulnerable but all in our region. If these jihadist have Indonesian government and military approval then this should be a red line for Australia and the region. It’s an abrogation of the Lombok Treaty and Indonesia’s founding principles of Pancasila.

The creep of Islamic militia into West Papua began at least 18 years ago when Laskar Jihad first sent members into Sorong and Jayapura. In 2001 I interviewed the Commander of Laskar Jihad, Jafar Umar Thalib, in Ambon during the war. He told me directly he was sending jihadis to train in West Papua. After the liberation of Timor Leste, General Wiranto and the TNI moved much of their security apparatus from Timor to Papua.

For years I’ve heard from OPM sources of jihadi camps around Merauke in the southeast corner, close to the borders of PNG and Australia, but they could never get photo evidence. Now phone cameras are capturing all as would-be jihadis demonstrate in Java and arrive on ships in Papua.

The plight of the West Papuans can no longer be ignored.

No-one wants an un-holy war here, one that would spread…

Source: Facebook.com

West Papua unrest: Shootout prompts border closure
The Wutung entry facility at the border between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea is an important trading access point. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades
The Wutung entry facility at the border between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea is an important trading access point. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Land and sea access between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea has been closed after a shootout at the border.

This follows reports of an Indonesian troop build-up along the border from communities in PNG’s West Sepik province.

Indonesian-ruled West Papua has been gripped by weeks of protests and violent unrest which has left dozens of people dead.

Amid a security forces crackdown, concern has been raised in neighbouring PNG about another potential influx of West Papuan refugees

PNG’s Immigration and Citizenship Authority has advised that following a shootout the border is closed to nationals from both sides until further notice.

It said shopping at the Batas market, close to the border on the Indonesian side, as well as movement into the West Papuan capital Jayapura was “completely banned”.

Earlier this week, PNG’s EMTV reported villagers at Wutung on the PNG side of the border as saying school children were ordered to return home.

Usually, most land and sea cross-border movement occurs around Papua New Guinea’s north coast.

Our Story:

  1. West Papua – PNG Border Incident: 2 Indonesian Soldiers Killed Today
  2. West Papua – PNG Border Incident: 2 Indonesian Soldiers Killed Today
  3. Chief Gen. WPRA Mathias Wenda: West Papua Revolutionary Army is Responsible for the Action at Wutung, PNG-West Papua Border that Killed 2 Indonesian Soldiers Today 1 October 2019

Shop closed at border

By CLIFFORD FAIPARIK and REBECCA KUKU

Indonesian Military Patrol along the Indonesian side of the border
Indonesian Military Patrol along the Indonesian side of the border

AN Indonesian shopping centre frequented by Papua New Guineans at the border with Indonesia has been closed indefinitely after a clash between rebels and Indonesian soldiers.

This was confirmed yesterday by PNG Consular-General Geoffrey Wiri.

“The Operassi Papua Merdeka (OPM) rebels came across the border into PNG and fired shots back targeting the Indonesian military base on Tuesday,” he said. “There were no reports of casualties. The situation has calmed down (but) business activities at the border (remain) closed.”

Wiri, who is based in Jayapura, said the clash occurred near Wutung village in West Sepik.

PNG and Indonesian border authorities plan to meet next week to decide what to do next.

Meanwhile, Morehead Station manager Maninanzang Gantau said the situation along the southern part of the border in Western was normal.

“Indonesian officials will advise us when to stop villagers crossing into the Indonesian border town of Sota when they feel that it is not safe,” he said.

Gantau said the shooting near Wutung was probably a lead-up to the OPM flag-raising ceremony in November.

“Right now there is a heavy buildup of Indonesian military along the southern part of the border.”

He said West Papuans involved in the OPM and living outside West Papua usually return home to take part in the ceremony.

Meanwhile, West Sepik police commander Moses Ibsagi has warned PNG citizens living along the border not cross to Indonesia yet.

“The situation is still tense on the other side of the border (even though) our side is very quiet,” he said.

“We have two PNG Defense Force platoons on the ground and I have a manpower of 32 with me. Our instruction is to ensure the safety of PNG citizens living along the border and that government facilities are protected.”

‘Unprecedented crackdown’: Indonesia trying to silence West Papuan advocates, lawyer says

As violence in the Papuan provinces of Indonesia reaches its “darkest” point in 20 years, Indonesian human rights lawyer Veronica Koman says she will continue to speak out despite daily death threats.

A pro-Papuan lawyer who has been threatened with an Interpol Red Notice says she receives daily rape and death threats as the uprising in the Indonesian provinces ramp up. 

Veronica Koman, a respected Indonesian human rights lawyer, now lives in Australia but continues to be pursued by the Indonesian government for allegedly disseminating evidence of security forces carrying out violence in Indonesia’s easternmost provinces of Papua and West Papua.

“I started to receive death threats two years ago and it’s almost like a daily experience now to receive death and rape threats online,” the 31-year-old told SBS News in an exclusive interview.

“They’re trying to kill the messenger. They cannot refute my data, all the footage they cannot refute that so they’re trying to destroy my credibility.”

Ms Koman became involved in the West Papuan struggle for independence in 2014 after five protesters were allegedly killed and another 17 injured by the Indonesian military in an event known as the Paniai killings.

“I thought at the time … ‘wow, why is there no outrage? School children are killed by security forces,'” she said.

“It has become my personal mission to expose what’s happening in West Papua.”

Last week, the provinces – which share a border with Papua New Guinea – suffered one of their bloodiest days in 20 years, with at least 33 people killed in the central town of Wamena

Footage of the incident, obtained by SBS News, showed Indonesian forces opening fire as Papuan high school students held an anti-racism rally.

According to the government, most of the victims were killed in fires. Indonesian President Joko Widodo has blamed an “armed criminal group” without providing further detail.

Despite living overseas, Ms Koman said her family in Indonesia were still in danger. Recently, police said they raided her family home in Jakarta. 

“My family in Jakarta have relocated for more than a month now because to avoid that intimidation,” she said, adding that many of the threats she receives are directed at her family as well. 

“People say you are in Australia but your family is in Indonesia and we can look for them.” 

‘Unprecedented crackdown’

More than 6,000 Indonesian soldiers have been deployed to the provinces in an attempt to quell the independence rallies and anti-racism demonstrations taking place over the past six weeks.

Papuan activists shout slogans during a rally in Jakarta in August.

Papuan activists shout slogans during a rally in Jakarta in August.AAP

Ms Koman said at least 100 West Papuans have been jailed for participating and some charged with treason for holding the banned West Papuan Morning Star flag.

Ethnic and religious tensions have simmered between Indonesia and the Indigenous Papuans of the region since the 1960s, culminating in the recent unrest.

In 1969, the so-called ‘Act of Free Choice’ saw just over 1,000 hand-selected Papuans vote at gunpoint to unanimously remain under Indonesian rule. 

 Indonesian human rights lawyer Veronica Koman says she will continue to speak out despite daily death threats.

Indonesian human rights lawyer Veronica Koman says she will continue to speak out despite daily death threats.Dateline

Since then, West Papuan independence groups say their people have been subject to a “slow genocide”, comparing their situation to Timor-Leste two decades ago.

“We are at the darkest time in 20 years,” Ms Koman said.

“I have not seen this much crackdown and the death toll, the government’s version of 33 in a single day, that is the worst.”

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne has urged “restraint on both sides”, angering many Papuans who believe Australia should be taking a stronger stance on the violence.

It’s difficult to access accurate death tolls from the provinces because there is a “total lockdown at the hospital”, Ms Koman said. West Papuans also often avoid going to the hospital if they are injured because of fears they will be killed there.

“That’s exactly the aim of the security forces, lock it down so only government version can go out,” she said.

Foreign media is heavily restricted from entering West Papua. 

In recent days, Mr Widodo has offered to meet with pro-independence groups as rallies across the country called for demilitarisation of the Papua provinces. 

Ms Koman, who has an Indonesia tattoo on her left forearm, is unable to return to her home country due to fears of persecution but is choosing to see the positive in the situation.

“This is a new beginning, this is a new chapter,” she said.

Source: SBS News

Let’s Have a Massive Rally on Friday October 11th, 2019!

Let’s Do Our Part to End Misery, Shame and Despair Our People Have Endured for 57 Years!

West Papua solidarity march in PNG draws thousands
West Papua solidarity march in PNG draws thousands

By Natalius Pigai, Defender of the Weak / Commissioner of the National Commission on Human Rights 2012-2017

I write this article based on the reality faced by the people of Papua for 57 years. I was born in a remote place in the interior of Papua, the center of war and conflict. Eventually, I became an activist in the struggle for civil rights and reached the peak of my career as a commissioner of the 2012-2017 Indonesian Human Rights Commission. Today I am still active as a humanitarian activist.

Since I was a child, I have seen, monitored, listened and recorded all the contents that were checked directly to the people of Papua as well as stories with no less than 15 regents / former regents and officials still active, and also based on the results of investigations and monitoring. I write this as a professional investigator who has handled no less than 15 thousand cases in Indonesia.

This paper is my contribution to the common good and improvement (bonum commune).

57 Years of Papua living in misery, hundreds of thousands of Papuans were arrested, tortured, slaughtered and killed based on racial hatred of the black Papuan people and curly hair.

Words that contain verbal violence such as monkeys, apes, and gorillas have long been received by Papuans. Perpetrators are not only ordinary Malay people but also state officials both in Papua and outside. More and more newcomers are behaving racistly and with the segregative attitude toward the people of Papua. Today they showcase the racial and segregative behavior of apartheid, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism which had developed in the past century in Africa, America, and Europe. Today, Indonesia is the only country on earth that has allowed racism to develop not only in the civilian population but also in Government, especially to the Papuan-Melanesians.

Even more ironic is that the intelligence officers, the military, and the police have made the migrants as partners to smooth the politics of occupation in Papua, to collect information, and even actually to form militia forces to hack and kill civilians in Papua.

Intentionally or not, the officers herded migrants who were innocent civilians to try their luck in the land of Papua as a militia group. That is the trigger of the acute hatred of the people of Papua against migrants. So when Papuans are angry and commit violence against migrants, why are the Indonesian people not angry at the officers that lead migrants and innocent civilians do to play in the embers of Papua, which is indeed a conflict area.

Did we ever know that in Wamena, the city center and in other areas HIV / AIDS is growing rapidly, threatening the extinction of the Papuan Melanesian, not because Malay women commercial sex colonizers sell themselves in “lokalisasi”, but because there is no localization, yet they make small huts and migrant restaurants, in “what do you want to eat, raw or cooked meat?” Raw meat means sex, cooked meat means food. That is the illustration if a native Papuan eats. And that was done openly in the center of the city, the authorities also witnessed it without going to prevent or even curb it. We have never witnessed an operation to curb social pathology or operation of justice.

When there were protests by Papuans in urban centers, the authorities often searched Papuans in migrant houses or kiosks and migrant restaurants, even straying bullets towards Papuans. Too many Papuans have died because of this pattern. This method is witnessed by the Papuans because Papua is a small town brightly lit.

All of this is recorded in the memory of the suffering Papuan people. Oral speech spread throughout the Papuans and these modes are widely known. Once again not migrants but migrants led by officials, inevitably “obedient” to participate in the wishes of the state in the name of integration in conflict areas.

But one of the behaviors that are not beautifully exhibited by migrants is when they conflict with Papuans, migrants always ask for or take cover behind the barrel of weapons, they do not follow legal channels, I have never found a migrant sought justice in court against the Papuan people fairly.

Papuans are herded in Togel gambling games everywhere in the cities; they have no more saving for the family because they have finished it playing Togel gambling. While Indonesia has banned gambling firmly, it is still rampant in Papua. The migrants, the Togel bandars, are surrounded by officials. Selling liquor is managed by migrants and accompanied by officials. There is even liquor whose alcohol reaches 40 percent written specifically for Papua.

Did we ever know that illegal mining areas are controlled by migrants, backed by authorities, selling liquor, narcotics and even operating prostitution such as in Degeuwo, Tembagapura, Mamberamo areas, etc? Residents pay gold pieces for liquor or prostitution under pressure and gunpoint.

The authorities are backing migrants to control 3 main sources of Papuan ownership:

  1. seizing natural resources by illegal mining, fishing, and extraction of wood.
  2. Seizing the economic resources of Papuans in all city centers, the distribution of goods and services is controlled by migrants, economic resources are controlled. Stalls, markets and even public transportation and motorcycle taxis are controlled by migrants. Papuans are only as vegetable sellers on the porch or the roadside. Even then, the nimble mamas, as women do everywhere they dared to make a living and provide enough education for their children. As is common in the world mothers are more militant; Papuan men are locked in to compete so they cannot make ends meet.
  3. Depriving the political rights of the people of Papua, deprivation today has penetrated the world of bureaucracy and politics. Newcomers are too hungry for power, they want to be regents, deputies, people’s representatives utilizing bribery, scattering money here, scattering money there, today’s election is almost controlled by migrants. There are regencies whose members of the House of Representatives are almost 100% migrants, there are regencies where a family has 7 members in the house of representatives. The police are also marginalized Papuans when recruiting.

Recruitment filled with corruption, collusion, and nepotism.

Recruitment of civil servants in Papua often witness the coming of migrants’ relatives who were born, grew up and went to schools in Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi; they were called to join the test in Papua, and with a bribe, they could pass. There was also a graduate of agriculture test who passed as a doctor and was accepted when he was placed in a clinic (puskesmas). It happened in Intan Jaya Regency. This is one mode of taking the land of Papuan by migrants.

If the 3 main sources of life for Papuans are controlled, is there any hope of life for Papuans? The future is certainly bleak. There is no hope of living in their homeland.

Do you know that the regional heads and officials in Papua are held hostage by the contractors and his subordinates who are mostly migrants? The contractors use state officials to smooth the project, even disburse money before the project runs.

The Regent is almost certain to be held hostage by the head of services with large budgets such as Public Works and Finance and has to cooperate with the Police and the District Attorney.

Throughout Papua, the Auditor of the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) came or was visited by local officials to bribe the BPK to issue a letter called “finished checking”, once again the letter was named “finished checking” even though the BPK had never checked it. As a result, all the people of Papua are surprised why almost all districts in Papua each year can get the title WTP (Fair Without Exception), robbing public money in large amounts without physical development.

If I may be honest “as is”, then hospitals in Papua have been labeled as “places of death” not human nurseries, not places of life, especially government hospitals including those of the Police, and now Papuans have begun to suspect private hospitals even though they belong to the church. Papuans are very afraid to go to the hospital, they prefer natural remedies. The hospital has long been suspected by Papuans as a place for ethnic Papuan cleansing, on average young mothers who have been hospitalized during pregnancy or after childbirth cannot give birth, some mothers are injected with anti-fertilities without their husbands’ and their consent (maybe asked when experiencing pain during childbirth). So today the average young mothers cannot give birth.

Indeed, the average physical appearance of the building and inside the hospital is very “rotten” even when I see firsthand the water of the faucets in the number one hospital in Papua, the water faucets are dead a week. Even though water is vital, the water of life without human water must die, especially in hospitals. Indeed, in this world, medical personnel and medics are special / they are God’s representatives in the world, but for Papua, the assessment is different. It is an old saga. One indicator of the threat of Papuans, in particular, is the increasing ratio of maternal and child mortality because until this moment there are no maternal and child hospitals throughout Papua. In contrast to outside Papua, each district has a mother and child hospital even more than one.

Not only hospitals, Papuans today have lost respect for priests, priests especially Kiai, have long lost the prophetic voice in the land of Papua Melanesia. The church becomes an instrument of authority, a tool of the mysterious clique. Add God who defends the Papuans die suddenly in the interior, facing a gun barrel.

In remote areas of the island, they often sell expired items: biscuits, sardines, noodles, etc. People do not understand because they are uneducated and, as a result, many people get sick and die.

One of the crimes of migrants in Papua is that Papuans are forced to convert to Islam. Many modes have been found. In Wamena, an officer herded a village under gunpoint and took some students to convert to a religion that is not a religion. In several areas, migrants take children with the argument of being foster parents or educating them, to be sent to some Islamic boarding schools and become converts.

There is no law in Papua, no justice before the law for Papuans. Justice only applies to those who are migrants. Unless Papuans pay a “bribe” to a judge. Papuans who are young and quick can get a court decision and a copy of the decision in a matter of days, while poor Papuans find it difficult to get justice. Nearly 58 years the court has sentenced non-Papuans or police officers, I have never seen and read one document of the police being jailed for torturing and killing (Extra Judicial Killing).

All the groans lament, the sadness of the Papuans are silenced in the hearts of the people of Papua. The Papuan people have no room for expression, the mass media is silenced as a propaganda tool for the authorities and migrants. Civil society organizations and political parties as instruments of articulation of the interests of the people of Papua are silenced, freedom of expression is limited. As a result, what happened today was the explosion of the tip of the iceberg that had frozen for so long. That is what is not understood by the state and the people of Indonesia.

The Nation (Inter-Ethnic and Religious National Leaders) should find a solution to the problem of Papua in a dignified and more progressive manner, not in favor of military repression in Papua. If you ask for a military operation, then you don’t need to ask because 58 years of military operations have taken place, the people of Papua are living every day under threat in their bloody land.

I have to be honest to say that we are two different races namely the Melanesian Negro Race and the Malay Mongoloid Race. Like Oil and Water, it will never be able to unite unless racism, Papuan phobia, and discrimination are eliminated from this country and it seems impossible because discrimination in this country is already too acute.

(A Heart Wrenching reflection of a Papua man lamenting the plight and disaster facing our people of West Papua. 57 years of these abuses and suppression has exploded. The fear and submission has been replaced by anger and bravery. Nothing can stop it now! Only referendum will solve this crisis. We can’t rest or sit back having read with tears the cry of our people. Let’s us make sure we have a massive October 11th, 2019 Rally)

Source: Facebook.com

Indonesia’s Widodo willing to meet Papua pro-independence groups
Indonesia's president Joko Widodo Photo: AFP
Indonesia’s president Joko Widodo Photo: AFP

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has told media he is prepared to meet West Papuan pro-independence groups to discuss problems in Papua.

Viva News reports that President Widodo, known as Jokowi, indicated he was willing to meet anyone to discuss important issues in his country.

Papua region has been gripped by weeks of protests, a security forces crackdown and violent unrest which has left over 40 people dead, according to authorities.

The proposal to meet pro-independence groups was put forward by representatives of the Papua and West Papua regional legislature

The representatives made the proposal when meeting with President Jokowi’s Chief of Staff, Moeldoko, and Interior Minister Tjahjo Kumolo.

While the president did not single out groups to meet, Papuan representatives have suggested the United Liberation Movement for West Papua and the West Papua National Committee.

The Chairperson of the Maybrat Regency Parliament in West Papua, Ferdinando Solossa, made the suggestion at the Presidential Palace complex in Jakarta.

Both the Liberation Movement and the Committee are pro-independence organisations calling for West Papuans to be granted an independence referendum.

Last week, Detik News reported that Moeldoko said that he would himself be willing to meet with the government’s opponents in Papua, and even mentioned the Liberation Movement’s leader, Benny Wenda.

Moeldoko said he was willing to meet Mr Wenda in the interest of finding solutions to the ongoing problems in Papua.

The chief of staff was responding after meeting with Mr Solossa last week, with the Papuan representative emphasising that dialogue should involve an independent, neutral and objective third party in resolving the roots of political problems.

Sour: RNZ

Urgent Action on Torture & Attempt to Kill One Melanesian from West Papuan in Vanimo, Sandaun Province, Papua New Guinea
West Papua Refugee Relief Association (WPRRA)
West Papua Refugee Relief Association (WPRRA)

An Open Letter

To: Honourable James Marape, MP,
The Prime Minister of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea
Port Moresby,
PAPUA NEW GUINEA

Subject:

Urgent Action on Torture & Attempt to Kill One Melanesian from West Papuan in Vanimo, Sandaun Province, Papua New Guinea

Dear Honourable Prime Minister,

West Papua and human rights of Melanesians from West Papua has been a continuing issue since the invasion and occupation of our Melanesian land by foreign power called the Colonial United Republic of Indonesia (CURI).

The West Papua Refugee Relief Association (WPRRA) which was established in Port Moresby in 2010, hereby would like to present to Honourable Prime Minister of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea the “torture and assassinate attempt on one of Melanesians from West Papua who have been living in Vanimo, Sandaun Province for many years, after escaping from terror, intimidation and threat to life from Indonesian army and police forces in West Papua.

We attach the chronology of the event and our demand for immediate actions, and images of the victim. We will supply videos on our interview with the victim upon request.

Issued in: Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
On Date:  28 September 2019

WPRRA Main Office,

Elimar Gombo                                                               Soni Yossi
Chairperson                                                                    Deputy Chairperson

Vanuatu PM calls for UN action on West Papua
Charlot Salwai Photo: UNGA
Charlot Salwai Photo: UNGA

Vanuatu’s prime minister has again pressed the United Nations General Assembly over human rights abuses in West Papua.

During his speech in New York, Charlot Salwai lamented how some Pacific territories are yet to break the shackles of colonialism.

Mr Salwai cited France’s territories of New Caledonia and French Polynesia, as well as Indonesian-ruled West Papua.

He called on the administering powers to respect UN processes and ensure people in these territories can have their self-determination views heard.

Mr Salwai called for use of the UN system to find solutions to violations of West Papuans’ human rights.

“The resolution of the leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum calls on the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit West Papua to conduct an assessment based on concrete proof regarding the human rights situation.”

Rayyanul Sangadji, a junior Indonesian diplomat from Ambon, Maluku, exercised the country’s right of reply to Vanuatu’s statement.

“As an Indonesian with Melanesian roots, I can tell you we do not like to be clustered, categorised, or worse, divided by another, faraway country,” he said.

“Papua is, has [been] and will always be, part of Indonesia.”

Source: RNZ

Indonesia: Jokowi Says Ready to Meet with Papuan Pro-Independence Leaders

Victor Mambor and Arie Firdaus = Jayapura, Indonesia and Jakarta

Residents drive past a burning government building in Wamena, in Indonesia’s Papua province, Sept. 23, 2019.
Residents drive past a burning government building in Wamena, in Indonesia’s Papua province, Sept. 23, 2019.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said Monday he was ready to hold talks with separatist leaders to solve the conflict in Indonesia’s Papua region, as thousands of Indonesians who had migrated there were evacuated from Wamena, a highland town where 33 people died in violence last week.

A protest involving hundreds of high school students that was provoked by alleged racist remarks from an instructor descended into chaos in Wamena on Sept. 23, with crowds setting fire to government buildings, shops and homes, authorities said. On the same day, security forces clashed with student protesters in the provincial capital Jayapura, leaving three civilians and a soldier dead, police said.

“I will meet anyone who wants to meet me,” Jokowi told reporters at the Bogor Presidential Palace, when asked if he was ready for dialogue with pro-independence groups such as the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) and the National Committee of West Papua (KNPB).

The government has blamed ULMWP and KNPB for the unrest that has gripped Papua and West Papua provinces since last month, when thousands of protestors took to the streets across the mainly Melanesian region demanding a vote on self-determination. The protests broke out over alleged racist epithets that had been used against Papuan students on Java island.

Authorities said five people were killed during the initial violence in August and early September, but Papuan activists said they recorded at least 13 deaths.

Officials said the unrest was intended to draw international attention to Papuans’ demand for a referendum during the ongoing 74th U.N. General Assembly in New York.

ULMWP chairman Benny Wenda, who is based in Britain, welcomed Jokowi’s gesture.

“We welcome what was conveyed by the government of Indonesia. But we will only hold dialogue if all soldiers and police are withdrawn from the land of Papua without conditions,” Wenda told BenarNews.

The chairman of Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) urged Jakarta to engage Papuan leaders in a dialogue.

“In my opinion, this is the best solution. If it is not resolved through dialogue, we are worried there will be greater ramifications, including an international intervention,” Ahmad Taufan Damanik told reporters in Jakarta.

Almost 7,300 people have sought refuge in police and military headquarters, as well in church and government buildings in Wamena after last week’s violence, said John Richard Banua, the administrative head of Jayawijaya regency, of which Wamena is the main town.

Tensions rose in Papua in December after separatist rebels allegedly killed 19 members of a crew building a highway in Nduga regency. Authorities immediately sent more than 750 soldiers and police to the region after the killings.

Five people tagged as suspects

Police have said that most of 33 people who were killed in last week’s violence were migrants from outside Papua. Five people had been named suspects over the riot, officials said.

The military said more than 3,100 migrants who feared they would be targeted had been evacuated to the provincial capital Jayapura.

“They will be helped to return to their home provinces, especially women and children,” armed forces chief Air Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto told reporters, adding that men had been advised to return to Wamena to rebuild the town’s economy.

Security Affairs Minister Wiranto also urged those who fled Wamena to return.

“You can imagine, if they flock out of Wamena, who will drive the economy?” Wiranto told reporters in Jakarta.

The Papua region, which makes up the Indonesian half of New Guinea island, was incorporated formally into Indonesia in 1969 following a U.N.-administered ballot known as the Act of Free Choice. Many Papuans and rights groups said the vote was a sham because it involved only 1,000 people.

Wamena resident Obelom Wakerkwa told BenarNews that the students who took part in the protests did not engage in vandalism and arson attacks.

He said he saw security forces firing warning shots in front of the protesters.

“That enraged the high school students and the situation became out of control,” he said.

Ahmad Syamsudin in Jakarta contributed to this report.