Tue, 10 Oct 2000

Rights bodies blame govt for Wamena riot

JAKARTA (JP): A tense calm prevailed in Wamena on Monday as residents of the small Irian Jaya town slowly came to grips with the bloody riot that rights groups said was fueled by the government's inconsistent policies.

The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) and several human rights watchdogs here blasted on Monday the government's policies in handling unrest in Irian Jaya.

In a statement, Komnas HAM said the government's approach to the Irian Jaya problem only presented legal uncertainties.

"The government should put aside the repressive approach and replace it with a democratic measure which prioritizes dialog with the people," said the statement signed by Komnas HAM's chairman Djoko Soegianto and secretary general Asmara Nababan.

Komnas HAM also urged the government to be prudent in handling potential conflicts with Irianese.

"The government should be wise and protect the people's rights in it's policy implementations," it said, adding that the government should take fair legal actions against all parties involved in the Wamena incident.

The bloody riot erupted on Friday when police took down several separatist flags in Wamena, located about 290 kilometers southwest of the provincial capital of Jayapura.

Police claim that pro-independence forces from the Papua Task Force ran amok, venting their rage by attacking mostly migrant civilians.

A statement from the provincial administration on Sunday said that 22 migrants and six indigenous Irianese were killed in the attacks.

Independence calls in Indonesia's easternmost province has been growing. The government has tried to placate some demands by allowing the separatist flag to be flown below the Indonesian red-and-white national flag.

Separately on Monday, four rights bodies asserted that President Abdurrahman Wahid and the House of Representatives should immediately summon National Police chief Gen. Surojo Bimantoro to explain the decision to lower the separatist Bintang Kejora flag, sparking the riot.

"We need to understand why Bimantoro gave an order outside his authorization while the President has allowed Irianese to hoist the flag," Munir of the Indonesian Institute for Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) told a joint media conference together with the Commission on Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM) and the Institute for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (ELSHAM).

"I presume there was a secret order, contrary to the President's statement," he added.

Munir argued that Bimantoro has entered a political area which is outside police authority.

ELSHAM's supervisor, John Rumbiak, alleged that Bimantoro gave the order to haul down the separatists flags to the Irian Jaya Police chief during a meeting in Jakarta on Sept. 27.


Meanwhile Wamena was mostly calm despite the fact that thousands of migrants were still seeking refuge at local military and police facilities.

Security and order in Wamena seemed to be restored but the town looked almost like a ghost town with no activity. Schools were closed and workers, mostly civil servants, stayed home.

Some migrants were queuing to flee the town, despite the lack of air transportation.

Five of six domestic air services have halted flights to Wamena since Saturday, leaving thousands of refugees, mostly women and children, stranded at the Wesaput Airport.

The only airline operating was PT Airfast, while Merpati Nusantara Airline, Trigana Air Service (TAS), Manunggal Air Service (MAS) and MAF have stopped operations in Wamena.

On Saturday, the only aircraft that landed at the airport was a Hercules belonging to the Indonesian Air Force, which brought a company of the police's Mobile Brigade.

Several people were transported by the Hercules out of Wamena, the capital of the Jayawijaya, for Merauke.

Reliable sources in Merauke told Antara that 203 civilians had been transported to Merauke on the Hercules by Saturday.

The Jayawijaya regency secretary, Yason Mubuay said he was disappointed that the request from his office (to the governor) for the Air Force to help transport the refugees had not been acknowledged.

Wamena regent, Davi Augustien, and the speaker of the regency legislative council, Budiman Kogoya, were out of town on official business.

Commander of Jayawijaya 17902 Military district Lt. Col. Agus Sularso, speaking through local electronic media on Monday, called Papuans hailing from Jayawijaya to stop their anarchy. (sur/bby)