Paniai people call for a halt to the deployment of more troops

JUBI, 25 August 2011

Following the armed skirmishes between the Indonesian army and police with a group thought to be the TPN/OPM led by John Magay Yogi, and a number of mysterious shooting incidents, the towns of Enarotali and Madi in Paniai district are full of military personnel who have arrived from outside Paniai.  Although the situation was thought to have improved, the presence of military personnel has spread anxiety among the population.

The reason for the increased deployment of troops to Paniai may be to hunt down some weapons that were seized by unidentified persons from the police station in Komopa, sub-district of Agadide on 16 August.  Or is it because Paniai is regarded as an area of conflict which needs extra action on the security front?

Whatever the reason, the local people along with local government officials long for a peaceful Paniai and call for a halt to the dispatch of more military troops. The local people have called on the local military chief, the military commander of XVII/Cenderawasih military command as well as President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to pull back these troops from the area.

A local community leader said: ‘Paniai is calm but many troops and police have been sent here. Is it because there is a war?’

According to Yafeth Y Kayame, head of the Suku Mee people, the additional deployment of many troops to Paniai has undermined the call for peace that was made last Saturday in Enarotali.. Local people have become more frightened than ever.

People are asking ‘Why have they come to Paniai? Enarotali and Paniai are not areas of conflict so the authorities must stop sending troops here.’ They have been arriiving here over the past four days, so who do they want to fight with? Or do they want to kill all of us here?’

The local administration should not keep silent but should take steps to safeguard security for the population. If it is only to re-capture two firearms, then the troops already here would surely be enough, without bringing in more troops, they say.

Many people think that the presence in the area of TPN/OPM forces in Eduda is being used as a justification to bring troops here from Jayapura and Nabire. According to some sources, in addition to infantry brigade 753/Arga Vira Tama Nabire, a Brimob company is also being deployed to Paniai.

Although this has been denied by Major-General Erfi Triassunu, the military commander of XVII/Cenderawasih military command, the fact is that these ‘new’ troops can be seen almost every day driving along the roads in convoys.

Meanwhile, anxiety has continued to spread among the local people and many have left their homes with a new exodus starting on Tuesday.

[Slightly abridged translation by TAPOL]

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