Situation in Papua ‘calming down’: Officials

A car burned in September's riot is pictured at damaged office building of Jayawijaya's regent in Wamena, Papua, Indonesia, October 9, 2019 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. (REUTERS)
Updated 12 October 2019

Situation in Papua ‘calming down’: Officials

  •  President Widodo has ordered reconstruction of buildings and public facilities damaged during riots
  • Authorities are hunting for perpetrators who provoked riots that claimed 33 lives, minister says

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.

Hong Kong police warn of ‘live fire’ if they face deadly weapons from protesters

Updated 17 November 2019

Hong Kong police warn of ‘live fire’ if they face deadly weapons from protesters

  • Protests have tremored through the global financial hub since June
  • China has repeatedly warned that it will not tolerate the dissent

HONG KONG: Hong Kong police Monday warned for the first time that they may use “live rounds” after pro-democracy protesters fired arrows and threw petrol bombs at officers at a beseiged university campus, as the crisis engulfing the city veered deeper into danger.
Protests have tremored through the global financial hub since June, with many in the city of 7.5 million people venting fury at eroding freedoms under Chinese rule.
China has repeatedly warned that it will not tolerate the dissent, and there have been concerns that Beijing could send in troops to put an end to the spiralling unrest.
Three protesters have been shot by armed police in the unrelenting months of protests. But all in scuffles as chaotic street clashes played out — and without such warnings being given.
A day of intense clashes, which saw a police officer struck in the leg by an arrow and protesters meet police tear gas with volleys of petrol bombs, intensified as night fell.
Clashes rolled across Kowloon, with the epicenter around the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), where scores of defiant demonstrators set large fires to prevent police from conducting a threatened raid on the campus.
They hunkered down under umbrellas from occasional fire from water cannon and hurled molotov cocktails at an armored police vehicle, leaving it ablaze on a flyover near the campus.
Police declared the campus a “riot” scene — a rioting conviction carries up to 10 years in jail — and blocked exits as spokesman Louis Lau issued a stark warning in a Facebook live broadcast.
“I hereby warn rioters not to use petrol bombs, arrows, cars or any deadly weapons to attack police officers,” he said.
“If they continue such dangerous actions, we would have no choice but to use the minimum force necessary, including live rounds, to fire back.”
Police said they fired at a car late Sunday that had driven at a line of officers near the campus — but the vehicle reversed and escaped.
Protesters at the campus appeared resolute — a twist in tactics by a leaderless movement so far defined by its fluid, unpredictable nature.
“I feel scared. There’s no way out, all I can do is fight to the end,” said one protester joining the barricade in front of the university building.
“We need a base to keep our gear and have some rest at night before another fight in the morning,” another called Kason, 23, told AFP.
On Sunday, activists parried attempts by police to break through into the PolyU campus, firing rocks from a homemade catapult from the university roof, while an AFP reporter saw a team of masked archers — several carrying sports bows — patrolling the campus.
Violence has worsened in recent days, with two men killed in separate incidents linked to the protests this month.
Chinese President Xi Jinping this week issued his most strident comments on the crisis, saying it threatened the “one country, two systems” model under which Hong Kong has been ruled since the 1997 handover from Britain.
Demonstrators last week engineered a “Blossom Everywhere” campaign of blockades and vandalism, which forced the police to draft in prison officers as reinforcements, shut down large chunks of Hong Kong’s train network and close schools and shopping malls.
The movement, characterised by its fluidity and unpredictability, has started to coagulate in fixed locations, showing the protesters’ ability to switch tactics.
The protests started against a now-shelved bill to allow extradition to China but have billowed to encompass wider issues such as perceived police brutality and calls for universal suffrage in the former British colony.
The financial hub has been nudged into a recession by the unrelenting turmoil.
A poster circulating on social media called for the “dawn action” to continue on Monday.
“Get up early, directly target the regime, squeeze the economy to increase pressure,” it said.
The education bureau said schools will remain closed again on Monday.
Earlier on Sunday, dozens of government supporters gathered to clear barricades near the university campus — a sign of the divisions slicing through the city.
Many residents are wearied by the sapping protests. Others support the Chinese-backed city government.
Some applauded a Saturday clean-up by Chinese troops from a garrison of the People’s Liberation Army in Kowloon.
The garrison is usually confined to the barracks under Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, although it can be deployed at the request of the city’s government to help with public order breakdown or natural disasters.
Hong Kong’s government, which presides over a city that enjoys greater freedoms than the mainland, said it did not ask the PLA for help on Saturday.
The choreographed troop movement “has only compounded the impression that Beijing has simply ignored” Hong Kong’s unique political system, said analyst Dixon Sing.