Thursday, April 11, 2013

1) After 61 reported deaths, Health Minister sends team to remote Papua village

1) After 61 reported deaths, Health Minister sends team to remote Papua village

2) 61 Papuans die in remote hamlet

3) Lack of Care in Papua Proves Deadly

4) Indonesians Call for Crackdown on Military


1) After 61 reported deaths, Health Minister sends team to remote Papua village

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A public health team will be sent to Samenage in Yahukimo, Papua, following reports that 61 residents of the remote village died from preventable illnesses between January and March, a minister has said.
"This must be checked. Every time I receive such kind of information, I always dispatch a team to check whether it is true,” Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi said after meeting local officials in Jayapura on Wednesday.
However, Nafsiah questioned the findings of the report, compiled by Samenage parish priest Rev.John Jonga, which said that residents have been afflicted by a host of ills, including asthma, diarrhea, high fevers, influenza, malaria, malnutrition, scabies, spleen infections and worms, due to an absence of health care professionals.
“This may be an exaggeration. I am doubtful that such a huge number of casualties occurred within two months when there were no wars between ethnic groups or plagues,” Nafsiah said.
The Health Minister also contested a report that said 95 died from malnutrition in Tambrauw, West Papua. “There were no malnutrition-related deaths there. Our team has visited Tambrauw. Between October 2012 and March 2013, there were only four deaths in the area.” (nai/ebf)

2) 61 Papuans die in remote hamlet

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Sixty-one residents of Samenage hamlet in Helenga district, Yahukimo, Papua, are reported to have died between January and March this year due to a variety of illnesses, some of which are related to malnutrition, a source said on Wednesday.

The data was provided by a pastoral team that paid a visit to the area during the recent Easter celebrations, said human rights activist and Catholic priest John Jonga of the Hepuba parish, which serves the mountainous Central Highlands area of Papua.

Yahukimo, which has a population of more than 164,000, was originally part of Jayawijaya regency before it was hived off as a separate entity, and is located some 800 kilometers from Jayapura, the Papuan capital. The hamlet can only be reached by light aircraft.

“We have recorded 61 deaths due to health issues such as respiratory problems, liver problems, diarrhea, guinea worm disease and swollen limbs,” said Jonga.

Jonga, winner of the 2009 Yap Thiam Hien human rights award, claimed that the sick villagers did not have access to healthcare.

Samenage has no puskesmas (community health center) as it only has an auxiliary health center with one medical worker, known locally as mantri. However, the mantri has reportedly been absent for two months due to sickness.

The villagers, Jonga said, relied heavily on sweet potatoes, known as batatas, and bananas grown in their gardens for their daily nutrition. Apart from these two sources of food, they also consumed coconuts taken from nearby forests.

Earlier this month, the Sorong Raya chapter of the Nusantara Traditional Community Alliance (AMAN) reported that as many as 95 people in three villages — Baddei, Jokjober and Kosefa — in Tambrauw, West Papua, died of illnesses with symptoms ranging from headaches, fever and skin irritation between November 2012 and March 2013.

The NGO claimed that the villagers failed to recover from their illnesses due to a lack of healthcare in the three villages. In 2010, the three villages’ puskesmas ceased providing healthcare to residents due to a lack of personnel.

In Yahukimo regency itself this is not the first report of multiple fatalities. Previously in 2005, at least 55 people died from malnutrition and 112 others fell sick from related illnesses in the mountainous regency between November and December. The failure of the sweet potato crop was blamed for the widespread

Four years later 92 people died of malnutrition between January and August 2009. The local government reported that a failed harvest had caused devastating food shortages in the region.

Regarding the recent deaths, Jonga said that this time around the villagers had not faced a harvest failure as had occurred in the past years.

Jonga said he hoped the government would provide a nutrition-improvement program, especially for children and pregnant women, as well as training volunteers as medical assistants in the village.

Separately, in response to the report, Papua Health Agency head Joseph Rinta said that he had dispatched a team to check out the report. “We need to check the exact number of deaths because so far we have not yet received any reports of epidemics or force majeure,” said Joseph.

Joseph said that the remote location hindered the government’s efforts to provide health services and ensure that the province had enough medical workers to serve its people.

3) Lack of Care in Papua Proves Deadly
Robert Isidorus | April 11, 2013
Jayapura. Sixty-one people have reportedly died in the past three months in the Samenage district of Yahukimo, Papua, due to the lack of health-care facilities.

Father John Jonga, winner of the Yap Thiam Hien Award 2009 on human rights, said that the long distance to health-care facilities made it difficult for local residents to receive help when they become ill.

“Residents’ [lives] could not be saved because the access to a health-care facility is far. Although [we] have a small community health-care facility unit, there aren’t any medical officers available. This has made it difficult for the residents to get medical help,” John said on Wednesday.

John said that he reported this situation to Jayapura bishop Leo Laba Ladjar and Yahukimo district head Ones Pahabol.

He said that the people who died of illnesses came from nine kampungs in the area, namely Pona, Haleroma, Ison, Muke, Hugi Lokon, Astapo, Notnare, Hirin and Samenage.

John said that the government should pay attention to these cases and put some priorities to provide health-care facilities.

John regularly made visits to the areas from January to March and received the reports from local residents.

“Last week, I sent two text messages to the district head about this problem, but the district head didn’t reply,” he said.

Based on information from the field, district head Ones never visited the kampungs during his 10 years in office. 

It has also been reported that during the past two years, the kampung chiefs were also rarely in attendance of their areas.

The local chapter of the nation’s human rights agency in the West Papuan province said last week that as many as 95 people have died of hunger in Tambrauw district from November to March this year, with hundreds more still at risk.

Frits Bernard Kamuki Ramandey, the acting secretary of the Papua branch of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), said that it was inconceivable that the authorities would have allowed people to starve to death.

“Obviously the local authorities have let the situation get out of control,” he said. “How can so many people be suffering from this? This is no natural disaster.”

Gabriel, the Tambrauw district chief, acknowledged that there was a malnutrition problem in the area but refuted Komnas HAM’s figure, saying that only 15 people had died during that period. He said he ordered medical teams to visit and was preparing to 
evacuate residents to areas where they would have better access to medical care and food.


4) Indonesians Call for Crackdown on Military

Suryo Wibowo/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Police officers at a prison in March after heavily armed intruders, identified as soldiers by the authorities, executed four detainees.
The coordination of the slayings, the professional demeanor of the masked men, and their military-style weapons and communications equipment prompted immediate speculation within the Indonesian news media and among human rights groups and lawmakers that the assailants were members of the military.
JAKARTA — Soon after midnight on March 23, a group of heavily armed, masked men forced their way inside a prison near the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta and summarily executed four recently arrived detainees with gunshots to the head.
An uncharacteristically swift investigation by the army found that nine members of the army’s controversial Special Forces unit, known as Kopassus, were involved in the brazen prison shootings, while two others had come along in an attempt to stop their comrades. The army’s chief investigator in the case said April 4 that the soldiers had confessed to carrying out the shootings for revenge: The four detainees had been arrested in connection with the stabbing death of a Kopassus sergeant during a bar fight in Yogyakarta.
The prison raid has raised questions about what progress has been made in overhauling the Indonesian military since the collapse of President Suharto’s authoritarian rule in 1998 amid pro-democracy protests. During his 32 years in power and after, the military, and in particular Kopassus, has been linked to human rights abuses including extrajudicial killings, kidnappings and torture.
The shootings have also revived calls by human rights groups that the country’s laws be amended so that military personnel accused of serious crimes can be prosecuted in civilian courts, rather than in the military court system.
“We can’t rely on the military courts, which are already well known for not working properly in human rights cases,” said Haris Azhar, coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence, a nongovernmental organization that documents military and police human rights abuses. “The military court is a dark room where the public and victims have little participation.”
Mr. Azhar cited cases in which military personnel received lenient sentences for serious offenses, as in 2003 when a military court sentenced four Kopassus soldiers who had been convicted of murder in the strangulation of Theys Eluay, a pro-independence leader in the restive eastern province of Papua, to prison terms ranging from three to three and a half years.
In 2011, a military court in Papua sentenced three army soldiers to terms of 8 to 10 months in prison for “abuse and insubordination” for beating and torturing two Papuan men to determine whether they were members of the Free Papua Movement.
Marcus Mietzner, a senior lecturer at Australian National University in Canberra and author of “The Politics of Military Reform in Post-Suharto Indonesia,” said the prison raid exposed a persistent culture of impunity within the armed forces and in particular Kopassus, because soldiers have little to fear from military courts.
Two weeks before the prison shootings, dozens of army soldiers attacked a police station in South Sumatra Province after the shooting of a soldier by a police officer, nearly burning it to the ground and wounding 17 police officers.
“There’s a pattern that whenever you have a member of T.N.I.” — the Indonesian military — “being hurt, injured or even killed, this kind of counterreaction is almost inevitable,” Mr. Mietzner said. “This was extreme, and because it was Kopassus, of course, it was extremely violent, but it’s not a new phenomenon.
“You can put it this way: It’s a welcome wake-up call to remind the public that military reform not only isn’t over, but in fact in terms of internal procedures, ethics, protocols and payments, it has yet to begin.”
While civil society groups praised the swiftness of the army’s investigation into the prison shootings, and the fact that the Central Java regional military commander was relieved of duty after asserting immediately after the shootings that soldiers had nothing to do with it, they are demanding that the assailants be tried in a civilian criminal court.
On Monday, however, Adm. Agus Suhartono, commander in chief of the Indonesian armed forces, rejected those calls.
“The law clearly states that it must be heard in a military court, so we will work according to the law,” he said.
Juwono Sudarsono, a former Indonesian defense minister and the first civilian to hold that post, said that before his retirement in 2009, he had negotiated with the House of Representatives on legislation that would allow joint military-police investigations of serious crimes involving military personnel and would establish a transitional period of five to eight years in which civilian and military legal procedures would be combined with sentencing by civilian courts.
He said that the civilian court system in Indonesia was too plagued by corruption and incompetence to handle trials of military personnel at that time, and that trying soldiers in civilian courts would exacerbate rivalries between the Indonesian armed forces and the national police at time when the country was less than 10 years into its democratic transition.
However, Mr. Sudarsono said, that bill was blocked because of opposition from the national police and human rights groups, which were pushing for more immediate civilian supremacy at the expense of the armed forces.
“But these nongovernmental organizations assumed that the police, the attorney general’s office and the courts were capable and clean,” he said. “I was vindicated, because neither of these civil authorities was capable nor clean.”
Sidney Jones, senior adviser to the International Crisis Group, a research organization based in Brussels, predicted that the military trials of the 11 Kopassus soldiers would probably be more open to public scrutiny given the news media attention surrounding the case.
“That will put more pressure on the military judges to give heavy sentences,” she said, “because if we look up till now at crimes committed by the military against civilians, it’s actually quite rare that they get sentences of more than four years when murder is involved.”
Yet there has also been an outpouring of public support for the 11 soldiers in Indonesian online chat groups and on news Web sites, because the four detainees they confessed to killing were widely believed to be gangsters involved in the narcotics trade in Yogyakarta.
“The majority of the reaction is for Kopassus,” said Yohanes Sulaiman, a lecturer at the Indonesian Defense University. “They are supporting the unit. They’re saying the police are incompetent and cannot control the gangs, so we need Kopassus to do extrajudicial killings.”

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