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Papuans demand dialogue with Indonesian government

Papuans demand dialogue with Indonesian government to curb violence

Pacific. Scoop
By Nurfika Osman in Jakarta

Despite the raft of killings, abductions and other violence carried out by unidentified groups in Papua, Indonesia’s eyes remain elsewhere, says a Papuan student leader.

“Thousands of Papuans have become victims over the years, but we continue to seek a dialogue with the central government and we will never stop demanding it,” said Markus Haluk, secretary general of the Papua Central Highland Student Association.

He was speaking at a discussion at the Association of Indonesian Catholic Students in Mentang, Central Jakarta, aimed at ending the epidemic of violence through collaboration between the local and central governments.

Markus said the violence – including arson – was being ignored. His organisation had recorded 39 murders of Papuans, 645 cases of physical abuse and 151 detentions by police.

He urged the central government to push provincial police to continue investigations into the murders, particularly the killing of Opinus Tabuni in August last year.

Opinus was shot and killed as he attended a celebration of the UN International Day of the World’s Indigenous People in Wamena, Papua, on August 9, 2008.

The attack took place after a small number of participants raised the Morning Star, the flag of the West Papuan pro-independence movement, triggering chaos in the middle of the festival.

Political conflict
Thaha Alhamid, secretary-general of the Papuan Presidium Council, noted at the discussion that the local government would only succeed in dialog with the central government if it unified its citizens.

“Papuans are divided into groups and religions. We should have one voice for the dialog,” Thaha said.

Other speakers at the meeting said that since Papua’s integration into the republic in the early 1960s, political conflict and violent attacks against Papuans – including the murder of Papuan Presidium Council chief Theys Eluay in 2001 – had not ceased. The violence was also being spurred by security forces who see Papuans as separatists, the speakers said.

Paskalis Kossay, a member of the House of Representatives Commission I overseeing defence and political affairs, noted that an extreme lack of trust between the central and local administrations remained a stumbling block that was costing Papuans dearly.

Paskalis noted that human rights violations had been blighting Papua since the 1960s.

“Since that time, the Papuans have been seen as separatists and will always be targeted in violent attacks. Many of them have been abducted by the military,” he said.

Police officers attacked a demonstration being held by members of motorcycle taxi drivers and the Bau Bau Legal Aid Institute in Bau Bau, Papua, last month, injuring six protesters.

Though an internal police inquiry was conducted into the case, a criminal investigation has yet to be launched.

Source: The Jakarta Globe
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