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Home » » Indonesia's Grasp on Papua Questioned Amid Unrest

Indonesia's Grasp on Papua Questioned Amid Unrest

Written By Voice Of Baptist Papua on July 1, 2012 | 3:18 AM

June 16, 2012 shows supporters Mako Tabuni (AFP Fhoto)
A spate of shootings in Papua over the past month is fueling charges that trigger-happy Indonesian soldiers are only exacerbating unrest and pro-independence sentiment in the resource-rich region.

Indonesia has maintained a strong military presence since it annexed the former Dutch colony in 1969, despite granting it more autonomy in 2001. Some estimates suggest that more than 14,000 troops patrol the restive province.

“Special autonomy isn’t working because Jakarta has failed to win the hearts of Papuans,” said Socratez Sofyan Yoman, a Baptist minister and pro-independence activist.

Police have tended to blame the pro-independence Free Papua Movement (OPM), which celebrated its 47th anniversary on Sunday. It urged Papuans to raise its banned Morning Star flag for the occasion.

But police now suspect that the National Committee for West Papua (KNPB), a separatist youth group, is behind some of the violence.

KNPB representatives, however, say the group is unarmed and accuse police of trying to orchestrate violence to blacken the independence movement and of covering up investigations into fatal shootings committed by its officers.

They point to the shooting and killing of KNPB vice chairman Mako Tabuni last month, an incident that led infuriated pro-independence activists to demand a full explanation from the national parliament.

“We came to Jakarta to ask the president for a new approach,” Septer Manufandu of the Papuan NGOs Cooperation Forum said.

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