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Turmoil continues in West Papua

Executive Secretary of Uniting International Mission, Rev John Barr
Security forces in West Papua continue to hunt down students who were involved in the March 16th demonstration in Abepura.

Around 1,000 people are said to be hiding in the hills near Jayapura while twenty people have been hospitalised after being beaten by the police.

Approximately 200 Papuans have now crossed onto Papua New Guinea to seek protection from police brutality.

Executive Secretary of Uniting International Mission, Rev John Barr reported that he received a phone call yesterday afternoon indicating that at least one student was found after being tortured by security forces.

A 25 year old male from Wamena in the central highlands was found near the campus with him stomach slashed open. He subsequently died and was buried yesterday by the Chair of the Baptist Churches in Papua Rev Socrates Sofyan Yoman.

Reports received today indicate that more security personnel are arriving in Papua by boat and plane.

Armed personnel carriers are said to be patrolling while many Papuans are too frightened to go out on the streets.

University dormitories have been trashed by security personnel and remain empty.

On 17 March an entourage of high ranking officials led by Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, Widodo arrived in Jayapura from Jakarta. This group was.

Despite attempts to dialogue with the visitors, Widodo and others refused opportunities for engagement with local leaders.

Rev Barr believes this is a sad state of affairs and said that a number of leaders from the regional parliament, the Papua People’s Assembly and religious groups signed a statement on Friday raising their concerns over the central government’s “unwillingness” to address problems affecting their province.

These included Rev Hermann Saud (retiring Modertor of the Evangelical Christian Church in the Land of Papua) and Bishop Leo Laba Ladjar (Catholic Bishop of Jayapura).

"The immediate future is uncertain in Papua and Papuans increasing feel aliened and marginalised in their homeland," said Mr Barr.

"Huge discrepancies in the way Papua’s natural wealth is shared is a very contentious issue and Freeport, the giant gold and copper mine near Timika continues to attract controversy.

"A recent environmental audit criticises the mine concerning its devastating impact on the local environment.

"Meanwhile it was revealed last week that Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold, owner of the Freeport Mine, paid two of its top executives a combined $US83 million last year. James Moffit, Freeport’s Chairman, received $US47 million while Richard Adkerson, the Chief Executive of the company, received $US36 million."

Photo : Executive Secretary of Uniting International Mission, Rev John Barr