Year Ender - Development in Papua remains priority despite security challenges by Fardah

Year Ender - Development in Papua remains priority despite security challenges by Fardah

President Jokowi reviewed the construction works of Trans-Papua road development project on Nov 16, 2018. The section he checked was on Kilometer 23 between Merauke and Sota in the district of Merauke. (Foto Biro Pers Setpres RI).

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The fact that President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has visited Papua nine times since December 2014 shows that his administration gives special attention to the development programs in the country`s easternmost province.

Jokowi`s first visit was in December 2014, just over a month after he was sworn in as Indonesia`s seventh president in October 2014. At that time, the president promised the Papuans that he would frequently visit the province.

His latest visit was on Nov 16, 2018, where he personally reviewed the construction works of Trans-Papua road development project. The section he checked was on Kilometer 23 between Merauke and Sota in the district of Merauke.

The Trans-Papua road, spanning 4.6 thousand kilometers, is expected to improve connectivity on Papua Island, which comprises Papua and West Papua Provinces.

Trans-Papua will cut time in the transportation of goods, logistics, and people`s movement in Papua, which has difficult terrain as a large part of its land area is still covered by thick forest and swamps.

The implementation of the Trans-Papua development project has so far been smooth, until Dec 2, 2018, when the public was shocked by reports of murders of more than a dozen workers of the road development project.

Indonesia`s security officers have, so far, discovered 16 bodies of slain workers employed by PT Istaka Karya Construction Company.

Jimy Aritonang, one of the survivors of the terror attack, recalled that some 50 armed men belonging to an outlawed group, led by Egunius Kogoya, had taken 25 workers from their camp to Mount Kabo.

On arriving in the remote mountainous area, the criminals shot the workers, whose hands were bound. Some 14 men died on the spot, while 11 others pretended to be dead and later attempted to escape. However, five were later recaptured and killed by the criminals, while several others managed to reach a military post.

The criminals chased them and later got engaged in a shootout with several military officers. One officer, identified as First Sergeant Handoko, was killed in the attack, while another one was injured.

Jokowi on Dec 5, 2018, expressed condolences on behalf of the Indonesian people, who mourned the deaths of the workers.

He immediately assigned Commander of the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto and Deputy Police Chief Commissioner General Ari Dono to go to Papua to handle the tragedy, and arrest every perpetrator involved in the murders.

"I affirm that there is no place for armed criminal groups like this in the land of Papua as well as in every corner of the country," he stated.

The incident has, in fact, strengthened the nation`s determination to develop Papua, he remarked.

Chief of the Presidential Staff Moeldoko condemned the terror attack and described the murders of the civilians as barbaric.

The government has deployed 150 military and police personnel to protect the people of Papua and construction workers.

The former commander of TNI, however, reminded that the military and police officers should remain professional in carrying out their tasks and not be provoked.

The determination to continue the project implementation was also voiced by Tjahjanto.

"Insha Allah (God Willing), next week, development of the bridge and (Trans-Papua) road will resume," the marshal noted in Timika, Mimika District, Papua, on Dec 6, 2018.

The TNI and Indonesian Police (Polri) will set up a joint security team to guard the construction work of bridges and roads in Nduga.

Restive Papua Island has been given a special autonomy status. However, it seems that the development programs have not met the public`s expectations, although the government has set up the Papua and West Papua Development Acceleration Unit (UP4B) in 2012 to boost Papua`s development.

Challenges in Papua, a home to vast and intact forest area and one of the world`s largest gold mine, are very complex. Security disturbances are quite a problem, but the central government has determined to deal with the problem professionally.

A total of 30 police officers had been shot dead and 57 were injured by members of criminal and separatist groups over the last 10 years (2008-June 2018) in Papua.

In addition to police officers, a total of 78 civilians were shot dead, and 117 others were wounded by outlawed groups in Papua, according to Inspector General Boy Rafli Amar, chief of the Papua Provincial Police, in a statement on the security reflection of the first semester of 2018, on July 3, 2018.

"We continue to handle the groups in accordance with the existing procedures," he remarked, adding that the police would never shoot the killers without following the standard of operation, he added.

In October 2017, some 1.3 thousand people, comprising of over 850 indigenous Papuans and 346 migrant workers, had been held hostages by an armed criminal group (KKB) in several villages in Tembagapura, Mimika, for about three weeks.

A joint military and police task force of Indonesia managed to release them and drive away the hostage takers on Nov 17, last year.

This year, a number of teachers were also reportedly kidnapped and raped by armed criminal group members. The Indonesian security later managed to release and save the victims.

The latest case was when 15 teachers were kidnapped for 14 days (Oct 3-17, 2018), and several of them were raped by the same Egunius Kogoya-led criminal group that killed the construction workers in Nduga.

Despite the security challenges, development activities in Papua must continue in accordance with the government`s programs.

Security personnel will guard companies, including state-owned enterprises, carrying out construction work in Papua.

Editing by Yoseph Hariyadi

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