Wed, 03 Sep 2003

Papua police arrest two in double homocide

Nethy Dharma Somba and M. Taufiqurrahman, The Jakarta Post, Jayapura/Jakarta

National Police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar said officers had arrested two people in the murders of two ojek (motorcycle taxi) drivers in Timika, Papua.

"We have arrested two people who are believed to have attacked the drivers. However, I need to emphasize once again that the murders of the two drivers were ordinary crimes (and not politically motivated)," Da'i said on Tuesday.

After a brief period of calm, Timika again became tense on Monday following the killing of two migrants who worked as ojek drivers. The situation was exacerbated by rumors that four migrant women had been raped by indigenous Papuans.

Fearing the situation could degenerate into ethnic violence, local police and military authorities stepped up security in Timika, the site of five days of bloody clashes between supporters and opponents of the establishment of Central Irian Jaya province. The violence last week left at least five people dead.

Timika Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Paulus Waterpauw said on Tuesday the security situation in the area had gradually returned to normal.

"One of the indicators (of this normalcy) is that activities in the marketplace have slowly returned to normal," he told The Jakarta Post.

He also said the migrant community in the city understood that the murders of the ojek drivers were unfortunate crimes, but that the drivers were not targeted because they were migrants.

Meanwhile, over 1,000 students from 14 universities and colleges in Jayapura protest on Tuesday against the partitioning of Papua province.

The students began their protest on the campus of Cendrawasih University before marching to the Papua governor's office. The protest resulted in heavy traffic congestion along the Abepura- Jayapura highway.

In fiery speeches, the protesters lambasted the central government's decision to split Papua into three provinces, saying the people of Papua did not want the split.

"The decision is meant to divide and rule the people of Papua," one of the protesters shouted.

They also demanded a thorough investigation into the deaths of Papuans during the violence in Timika.

In Jakarta, a group of Papuans living in the capital staged a protest at the National Police Headquarters and the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Dozens of protesters took turns delivering speeches opposing the partitioning of the country's easternmost province. They demanded the resignation of Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra and Minister of Home Affairs Hari Sabarno, who they blamed for the division of the province and the ensuing violence.

Separately, House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung called on the central government to initiate a dialog between local leaders in Papua, to ease the tension in the resource-rich province.

"President Megawati Soekarnoputri and her Cabinet members should visit the province and hold talks with local leaders there," Antara news agency quoted him as saying in Bandung, West Java.

He said the House would not establish a special committee to deal with Papua. However, he said it would discuss the matter in future meetings with the home minister.

"However, if the security situation in Papua worsens, the door is still open for the House to summon the government over the issue," Akbar said.