Papua provincial government insists armed separatist group isn’t holding people hostage

Warta Plus – November 13, 2017
Papuan provincial first assistant secretary Doren Wakerkwa (Warta Plus)
Papuan provincial first assistant secretary Doren Wakerkwa (Warta Plus)

Jayapura – The Papua provincial government has explicitly refuted a statement by the Papua regional police chief that residents have been taken hostage by an Armed Criminal Group (KKB) in the villages of Banti and Kimbely near the PT Freeport Indonesia mine in Tembagapura district, Mimika regency.

Papuan provincial First Assistant Secretary for Administrative, Political and Security Affairs Doren Wakerkwa explained to the media in Jayapura on Monday November 13 that what had happened in the two villages is simply that the armed group has blockaded access to the road leading to Tembagapura.

This means that residents are not allowed to pursue activities outside of the two villages. Both villages are known as a basis of Papuan pro-independence groups.

“There has been no hostage taking. It’s just the road or the community’s access to and from the two villages [that’s been blocked], only that. And it’s these access points that it is claimed are being guarded by the KKB”, said Wakerkwa, who added that he has already held a meeting with the Mimika government, the TNI (Indonesian military) and the Polri (Indonesian police) at which they agreed to setup a negotiating team.

He suggested that what needs to be done right now is to gather together influential religious, cultural and social figures from Tembagapura district then establish communications and negotiate with the KKB.

“Because in my assessment it appears that the KKB is already in control on the ground. So the question now is can the security forces break through the KKB’s lines in order to open access to the road or not? Meaning if the security forces can’t go in then prioritise the participation of religious figures in order to reconcile the situation”, he suggested.

Meanwhile, in relation to the provision of food supplies to communities in the two districts which has been hampered by access being closed off by the KKB, Wakerkwa is appealing to the KKB to give people an opportunity to leave go and get food.

“However if in fact the KKB is fighting for a cause, they should let the people go so they can travel to get food. But if they are not allowing them to go, it means that they’re fighting for another reason”, he said.

Earlier Papua Regional Police Chief Inspector General Boy Rafli Amar reported that thousands of local residents in the two villages in Tembagapura were being held hostage. The KKB is believed to have 30 firearms stolen from the TNI and Polri.

Reports of people being held hostage has also been denied by Mimika Police Chief Assistant Superintendent Victor Dean Mackbon who said that the residents of the Kimbely and Banti villages are only having their freedom of movement restricted. (Riri)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was Pemprov Papua Tegaskan Tidak Ada Penyanderaan Warga di Tembagapura.]