JAKARTA: Indonesian officials said Friday the situation in the country’s restive Papua region is getting back to normal following a series of riots that have hit the region since mid August. “I think the situation in Papua is developing well. The situation is back to normal and we hope it would continue to be better,” Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, a senior maritime and resources minister, told journalists.
He added that ministers and the military chief have visited the region and rebuffed allegations that the central government overlooked the region in the national development program given that the two provinces in the Papua region – West Papua and Papua which makes up the Indonesian part of New Guinea island – have more regional bugdets compared to some of the other Indonesian provinces.
Col. Eko Daryanto, a military spokesman for Cendrawasih military unit in Papua, told Arab News that more than 200 people who fled to Jayapura, the provincial capital close to the border with Papua New Guinea have returned to Wamena, a town in Papua’s highlands that was hit by a deadly riot on Sept 23.
Authorities said the riot killed more than 30 people while dozens were injured.
Chief Security Minister Wiranto, who goes by one name, visited the province on Tuesday and Wednesday flanked by senior government officials and the military chief, calling for unity in Papua and assured people who fled that it was safe for them to return to Wamena. Many of the thousands who fled Wamena were migrants from other islands in the archipelago that have long settled there.
Wiranto said in statement following his Papua visit that there was no reason for the migrants to return to their homelands since they have become an integrated part of Wamena, given that President Joko Widodo has instructed officials to rebuild the buildings and public facilities that were damaged during the riot.
“I think this is a good step forward and we would see that the buildings would be fully renovated soon,” said Wiranto, who was stabbed in the abdomen by a militant supporter of an Indonesian militant group affiliated with Daesh on Thursday while on a working visit in Banten province.
According to the public works ministry, there were 10 government buildings, 26 schools, 450 shophouses and 165 houses that were badly damaged.
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on Indonesia on Monday to launch an independent investigation into the recent riots in Wamena and that the National Commission on Human Rights should be leading the investigation into the deaths of 33 people.
“At least 33 people died during riots in Wamena in unclear circumstances,” Brad Adams, the Asia director at HRW.
“An independent investigation is needed to examine the role of the security forces and to prosecute anyone responsible for wrongdoing.”
Wiranto said the authorities are on the hunt for the perpetrators who provoked the riots.
“They were launched by armed groups and they had direct instructions from Benny Wenda to attack the migrants and triggered riots in a number of towns,” the retired general said, referring to the leader of the separatist United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP), a pro-Papuan independence group based in the United Kingdom.
Adams said that the situation in Wamena is tense, yet it’s difficult to verify the circumstances because no journalists can independently go into the area to interview witnesses.
“Having independent monitors on the ground will help deter abuses by both the militants and security forces, which would benefit all Indonesians,” he added.