Australia West Papua Association (Sydney)
Media Release 10 November 2017
Tension in West Papua-Cause for concern
AWPA calls on the Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to raise concerns about the increasing tension in West Papua with the Indonesian government, asking Jakarta that it control its military in West Papua and urging the security forces to use only peaceful negotiation to resolve the present incident and as a way of avoiding further escalation of the situation.
According to reports an armed group has taken up to 1,300 residents in the villages of Banti and Kimbely, in Timika, Papua, near the Freeport’s Grasberg mine.
Papua Police spokesman Chief Comr. Suryadi Diaz said that the gunmen are not allowing residents to leave their villages. The police believe the group consists of around 30 gunmen. Sebby Sambon, a spokesman for the TPN, denied villagers were being prevented from leaving. The police spokesperson said a state of emergency has been declared and around 300 additional security forces have been deployed to the mining area in preparation for a counter-terror operation.
Joe Collins of AWPA said “we are concerned for the local people in any security operation that takes place as it should be remembered that the security forces have great difficulty distinguishing between what they term separatists and the general public. It is not uncommon during these operations for houses, food gardens and livestock to be destroyed leaving the local people traumatized and in fear for their lives".
As recently as the 21st October it was reported by community leaders in the village of Utikini that a house was burned to the ground by the Indonesian Military Police. The Community leaders reported that police came to the village and set fire to the house, which was destroyed along with livestock. The leaders claim the incident was sparked because a car belonging to the PT Freeport mining company was shot at. But they said none of their people were involved in the shooting.
AWPA calls on the Australian Government to use its good offices with the Indonesian Government to call for the halt to any (or proposed) military operations in West Papua as a way of avoiding further escalation of the situation and avoiding further bloodshed.
Background to recent incidents
A number of shooting incidents occurred in the Tembagapura area between 21st and 29 October. Freeport vehicles were shot at, clashes occurred between the security forces and an armed group, leaving one security force member dead and a number injured. The police have referred to the attackers, as either OPM, an armed group or a separatist group. The police believe the group is lead by Sabinus Waker.
On Saturday morning the 21 October, an armed group opened fire on two Freeport vehicles in Tembagapura. The driver of one of the cars received minor injuries. On Saturday afternoon two Brimob members were also injured during a firefight with an armed group in Utikini village in Tembagapura district.
The clash took place as Brimob personnel led by First Inspector Taufik chased after the group that had shot at the two Freeport vehicles on Saturday morning. The two personnel were taken to Tembagapura Hospital. Although stable they were moved to Jakarta for a more intensive treatment in Kramat Jati Police Hospital.
On the 21st October it was reported by community leaders in the village of Utikini that a house was burned to the ground by the Indonesian Military Police. The Community leaders reported that police came to the village and set fire to the house, which was destroyed along with livestock. The leaders claim the incident was sparked because a car belonging to the PT Freeport mining company was shot at. But they said none of their people were involved in the shooting.
On Sunday, 22 October, First Brigadier Berry Pramana Putra from the mobile brigade corps was shot dead at Utikini Bridge in Tembagapura District.
On early Monday morning when the police attempted to retrieve the body of Putra, the armed group resumed its attack and injuring four police.
On Tuesday, the group attacked a vehicle of Tembagapura Hospitals medical team that was carrying a post-natal patient in Utikini Village. The patient Serina Kobogau was shot in her right thigh.
According to Antara News (25 Oct.), during the sweeping operation in pursuit of the armed group, the police managed to take over the groups base camp and other camps around the Utikini hills in Tembagapura. The police have also found handmade weapons, a walkie-talkie, and some other equipment.
On Wednesday 25 October, an armed group attacked a patrol vehicle at the 60-mile mark on an access road to PT Freeport Indonesia’s mine in Tembagapura, Mimika District. Nobody was injured.
On Sunday 29 October the Brimob post in the MP66 area of Freeport at Tembagapura was shot at by a group of unknown people. "Our members were being shot at from an altitude from the left side from mile 68," said Police Chief Commissioner AM Kamal, Head of Public Relations at Papua Police”, Kamal said the members of Brimob had returned fire.
5th November. Five kiosks owned by local people in Kampung Utikini, Mimika, Papua, were set ablaze by an armed group at 2 a.m. on Sunday. There were no casualties in the incident.