Pro-government mob blocks Papuan People's Council's arrival in Wamena

Source – November 15, 2020
Pro-government mob blocking Wamena airport arrival hall exit – November 15, 2020 (Istimewa)

Dhias Suwandi, Jayapura – A group of people in Wamena, Jayawijaya regency, Papua, have blocked the arrival of an entourage from the Papuan People's Council (MRP) who were to hold a public hearing (RDP) on Papuan Special Autonomy in the Lapago indigenous territory.

The crowd – who found out about the MRP entourage's arrival on Sunday November 15 – immediately closed off access out of the Wamena airport on Sunday morning and made speeches in front of the airport. As a consequence, the 70 or so people from the MRP were unable to leave the airport grounds.

"There's a crowd who oppose holding a RDP who represent the Lapago [community] in Wamena, yesterday there was also a demonstration and earlier when the MRP entourage arrived they monitored it", said Jayawijaya 1702 district military commander Lieutenant Colonel Candra Diyanto when contacted by phone on Sunday afternoon.

According to Diyanto, the crowd found out about the MRP entourage's arrival because in accordance with Jayawijaya regency government policy there is no air traffic on Sundays.

"There shouldn't have been any flights on Sunday, it looks like the MRP chartered [a flight], so the protesters immediately blocked off the airport, they made speeches rejecting the RDP being held", he said.

The MRP's plan to hold a public hearing was to evaluate the implementation of Law Number 21/2001 on Special Autonomy (Otsus) in Papua.

Based on the speeches by the crowd in front of the airport, Diyanto said they did not want the MRP to hold a public hearing in Wamena and called for any kind of evaluation on Special Autonomy to be carried out by the government.

"They (the crowd) wanted Lapago to follow the government's decision, they wanted the MRP to go home", he said.

The polemic over the evaluation of the law, explained Diyanto, has been quite heated and he expressed the hope that the MRP as an institution representing traditional, religious and women's communities in Papua be wiser in policy making.

"We were concerned that later there would be a clash if they (the MRP) forced the issue, that there would be a big clash between the protesters. There was a group opposing Otsus and a group supporting Otsus. And if there had been a RDP these two big groups would have gathered there, they would most certainly have gone there and a big clash would have taken place", he said.

As of 3.10 pm local time or as Diyanto was explaining the situation, the MRP entourage was still inside the Wamena airport and the pro-government crowd still outside the airport.

"Up until now the MRP entourage is still being held inside the Wamena airport, it appears as if they will return (to Jayapura) because they had a chartered plane and asked to be picked up in Sentani", said Diyanto.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Tolak Kedatangan Majelis Rakyat Papua, Sejumlah Orang Kepung Bandara Wamena".]