[Slightly abridged in translation from Indonesian]Illustration: Group of Paniai residents who left their homes because they were afraid of the shooting
There’s no sound of church bells or people singing Christmas carols. Just the sound of gunfire has been heard in Eduda every evening. The sound of gunfire in the dark of night spreads fear among the people, including those living in Enarotali which is 8 kms away
‘For the past week, we have been hearing gunfire from the direction of Eduda. Is this the sound of open warfare between the TPN/OPM and the Indonesian police? It should stop when people want to celebrate Christmas,’ said Yafeth Kayame, the head of the Mee people in Enarotali.
It is now just two days to Christmas, a time when people are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. ‘We should be singing sacred songs. But this is not what we are hearing, just the sound of gunfire as Christmas approaches. Please, help us to stop the fighting between the TPN/OPM and the Indonesian army. People want to celebrate Christmas,’ he said.
Hearing the sound of shooting around Eduda only spreads fear among the people. Some people who wanted to return to their kampungs even though things are not yet tranquil have decided not to return.
The gunfire was heard one day after an operation against Eduda, the headquarters of the TPN/OPM, by the police command in Paniai. ‘On Tuesday evening at around 6pm till late at night, gunfire could be heard, lasting for about two hours until one or two in the morning. Then it stopped but began again at 5 in the morning,’ he said.
During the day, a helicopter flew here from Madi and landed in Eduda.They said they were bringing logistics for the Matoa special unit, now operating from the former TPN/OPM base. The helicopter also encircled the area above Mount Wegeuto, possibly making observations from the air about the presence of John Magai and Yogi who have both fled into the forests.
‘The sound of gunfire made the people even more panic-stricken and they fled their homes,’ said Yafeth Kayame.
A Papuan human rights activist, Yosias Yeimo, has called on both sides to stop the fighting ahead of Christmas. ‘Among the people of God Almighty, there should be no more fighting so that people can celebrate Christmas in peace,’ he said.
The people living in Eduda and several nearby kampungs cannot celebrate Christman in their homes like they were able to do last year. The Protestant and Catholic communities have been disrupted by military operations that have been going on for the past month.
The local police chief also spoke about the security situation because of the military operations.’ It isn’t true. The situation is conducive. The situation in Paniai is calm. Stop spreading issues that only create panic,’ Jannus Siregar told journalists two days ago.
‘ I call on the people to return to their daily activities because the situation here is quite normal and people can celebrate Christmas. We are not hunting for civilians, still less are we shooting anyone dead. We are just doing our duty which is to chase the OPM, and this has led to the capture of John and Salmon,’ he said.
Translated by TAPOL
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