Riots trigger an exodus of settlers from Papua

Source: The Guradian Australia

KEBAKARAN di WAMENA 23 September 2019
Vanuatu has called on the UN to intervene over alleged human rights abuses in Indonesia’s Papua and West Papua provinces, as thousands of people flee the ­region in the wake of deadly riots and rumours of a pending military crackdown.

Thousands of evacuees have reported to the Indonesian Air Force to leave the Papuan highlands town of Wamena since last Monday when at least 33 people died, many of them non-Papuan “settlers”, in a wave of violence first triggered last month by a racist attack on a Papuan student dormitory in Surabaya, East Java.

Monday’s violence, one of the deadliest days in decades in Papua, was also sparked by alle­gations of racism, this time by a high school teacher accused of calling a student a “monkey”.

Indonesian authorities said the latest allegation was a “hoax” but Papuan students rioted through the streets, torching homes and shops and trapping inside many people who burned to death.

Security forces have also been accused of shooting Papuan ­students.

Indonesian Air Force Hercules planes have since taken hundreds of frightened people, mostly settlers but also Papuans, to the provincial capital, Jayapura, and to Timika, also in Papua. Evacu­ations continued at the weekend as many more waited at the airport or at security bases.

Local public servant Engelbert Surabut told the Jakarta Post many residents were fleeing because of rumours of a security crackdown and worse violence to come. “The rumour about security personnel dropping and sweeping towards indigenous Papuans has made everyone leave the town,” he said.

The Indonesian government has accused pro-independence groups of stirring up trouble to keep Papua in the headlines during this month’s UN General Assembly. Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai used his UN address in New York at the weekend to “condemn emphatically violations of human rights of indigenous people of Western Papua”.

“We call for use of the UN system to find solutions to these human rights abuses. The resolution of the Pacific Islands forum calls upon the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit … Western Papua to conduct an assessment based on concrete proof regarding the human rights situation,” he said.

“We call for this resolution and we call upon Indonesia as a ­neighbouring and partnering country in the region and to act in a fair and just way to authorise this mission.”

Mr Salwai’s appeal follows a communique signed by Pacific nation leaders last month at the Pacific Islands Forum urging the UN to investigate reported human rights abuses, which include allegations of torture, extrajudicial killings and systemic violence by security forces.

Amanda Hodge is The Australian’s South East Asia correspondent. Based in Jakarta, she has covered war, refugees, terror attacks, natural disasters and social and political upheaval from Afghanistan to Sri Lanka... Read more

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