Mon, 16 Oct 2000

8,000 refugees face hunger after Irian riots

JAKARTA (JP): Some 8,000 refugees of the Wamena disturbances who are sheltering in nearby military and police posts in Jayawijaya regency are living in squalid conditions and facing hunger and a lack of medical supplies.

"The Irian Jaya Social Welfare Agency must speed up the process of aid distribution to save the people," deputy head of the National Social Welfare Board (BKSN) Sri Rahmadi told the Antara news agency on Sunday.

"I think that we still have between 250 tons and 500 tons of rice and some of it can be sent there."

Rahmadi added that further coordination with local authorities is needed due to the difficult terrain of the remote area.

Most refugees are migrant settlers who lived in nearby villages.

At least 30 people were killed and 45 others injured as thousands of proindependence Papuan task force members ran amok in Wamena on Oct. 6 following the pulling down of Morning Star separatist flags by the police.

Thousands have since fled their homes, fearing renewed attacks. Dozens of houses were either burned or looted.

Wamena, located about 290 kilometers southwest of the provincial capital Jayapura, is reportedly still paralyzed following the bloody disturbances.

Schools, businesses and government activities were all still on hold as of the weekend, pending further improvements in the situation.

"People are still terrified and many are traumatized over the incident," the provincial Logistics Depot (Dolog) chief Hasan Amlati said as quoted by the news agency on Saturday.

The threat of renewed clashes remains as the Papuan Presidium Council (PDP) chief Theys Hiyo Eluay has reportedly vowed to defy the government's ban on the flying of the separatist flag in the province.

"The flags are still flying at two locations in Jayapura, namely Theys' house at Sentani and a location in the Taman Imbi area," Sr. Supt M. Kusnadi, chief of Irian Jaya's police operation and control unit, said on Sunday.

A group of Papuan task force members were seen guarding Theys' house on Sunday.

Kusnadi said PDP executives in Jayapura have refused to lower the flags as "they insist on sticking to the previous agreement with the police to only pull down the flag after Oct. 19".

"We are keeping an eye on the situation as we don't want any clashes triggered by the task force to erupt," the officer said.

No PDP executives could be reached for comment on Sunday.

Kusnadi said the PDP and local authorities are slated to meet for further discussions on the situation on Monday.

Earlier on Saturday, Governor Busiran Darmosuwito, Trikora Military chief Maj. Gen. Albert Inkiriwang and Irian Jaya Police chief Brig. Gen. S.Y. Wenas visited riot victims in Wamena General Hospital.

"The Indonesian Military (TNI) has sent a Hercules plane to drop food, medical assistance and materials to reconstruct the villages damaged in the riots," Albert said.

The two victims with the most serious injuries, namely Sumiyati who lost her left hand and her son Putra Abdul Hafid, 10, who is still in a comma, will be immediately flown to Jakarta for further treatment.

Jayawijaya Police chief Supt. D. Surapatty said police had arrested the man, identified only as a member of staff at Wamena General Hospital, who is allegedly responsible for attacking the two.

Police seized Rp 3.9 million in cash and a wallet belonging to Sumiyati from the suspect. (edt)