Protesters say government to blame for deadly epidemic in West Papua

Lensa Indonesia – April 15, 2013
Solidarity for Papua (SUP) rally - July 21, 2010 (4.bp)
Solidarity for Papua (SUP) rally - July 21, 2010 (4.bp)

A group of West Papuan students from Solidarity for Papua (SUP) held a demonstration in front of the Abu Bakar Ali Park in the Central Java city of Yogyakarta on April 15.

The protesters held the action to express their disappointment over the government’s slow response in handling the epidemic in Tambrauw regency, West Papua. The disaster has claimed the lives of scores of people and left hundreds of others in a critical condition.

“We demand that SBY-Boediono [President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono-Vice President Boediono] be held accountable for this calamity. It is deeply saddening that the people are powerless in the face of this epidemic because they are unable to obtain the healthcare services that should be provided by the government and health officials”, said SUP spokesperson Marciana Dede during the action on Monday.

The group said that the Yudhoyono government must be held accountable for the disaster because they have intentionally neglected the epidemic.

“The epidemic struck in November 2012 and has continued until this day, without any serious efforts by the government to cope with the epidemic that has afflicted the people there”, said Dede.

This intentional neglect on the part of the government in dealing with the epidemic was demonstrated by a local government statement by the head of the West Papua health office that the epidemic was not a health emergency. Because of this, the group said, fifteen people died unnecessarily.

“They (the government) also failed to verify information released by one particular non-government organisation that carried out an investigation on the ground and found that as many as 95 people had died and hundreds of others were still in a critical condition”, she added.

Dede also said that the government’s justification in saying that the villages were extremely isolated and difficult to reach was a cliche that is always used as an excuse for avoiding responsibility.

“Are there not infrastructure projects under Otsus [Special Autonomy] and the UP4B [Special Unit for the Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua] with funds of billions of rupiah that should be allocated to respond to these issues, so why to this day in the five villages of Jocjoker, Kosefo, Baddei, Sukuwes and Krisnos is there not one healthcare facility?”, she asked.

[SBY-Boediono harus bertanggung jawab atas musibah di Tambrau, Papua Barat – Senin, 15 April 2013. Translated by James Balowski.]