Timika, Papua (ANTARA) - All native Papuans are enjoying the same freedoms as their fellow Indonesians across the country, so they no longer need to demand independence, an Ilaga community leader has said.

"Indonesia has gained its independence for over 75 years. So, we do not need to talk about independence," Usai Alom, a prominent Ilaga community leader, said.

Instead of demanding a wildcard independence referendum, all Papuans must work hard to boost development in Papua and make it more peaceful for all, he said here on Saturday.

By building a peaceful and well-developed Papua, all components of the society will be able to make a living without fear and send their kids to school, Alom observed.

To free communities in Ilaga, the capital of Puncak district, from operating in fear in everyday life, the military and police must provide them with peace guarantees, he said.

Without such peace guarantees, armed Papuan groups operating in Puncak can still pose a threat to civilians, he added.

"We do not want the acts of terror to recur. This country has gained its independence. The government exists to develop and make its people prosper," he remarked.

From the ancient to modern times, Puncak and Ilaga have been regarded as sacred areas, where no one is allowed to harm people and nature, Alom said.

"American missionaries have preached the Bible here. So, everybody living and working in Ilaga must see and treat all people as brothers and sisters," he asserted.

To ensure a brighter future for themselves, he urged the young generation in Ilaga and Puncak district to study hard.

As part of community-initiated endeavors to restore peace in Ilaga, locals are holding a ‘Bakar Batu’ (rock burning) ritual from April 30 to May 3, 2021.

‘Bakar Batu’ is an old ritual among Papuan tribes, held for resolving a 12-year-long election-related conflict between the Elvis Tabuni and Simon Alom groups in Ilaga.

Over the past few years, armed Papuan groups have often employed hit-and-run tactics against Indonesian security personnel and deliberately attacked civilians in the districts of Intan Jaya, Nduga, and Puncak to instill fear among the people.

The recent targets of such acts of terror have included construction workers, motorcycle taxi (ojek) drivers, teachers, students, street food vendors, and even civilian aircraft.

On December 2, 2018, a group of armed Papuan attackers brutally killed 31 workers from PT Istaka Karya, who were engaged in the construction of the Trans Papua project in Kali Yigi and Kali Aurak in Yigi sub-district, Nduga district.

The same day, the armed attackers also killed a soldier, identified as Handoko, and injured two other security personnel, Sugeng and Wahyu.

Armed groups have unleashed a string of violence in the province this year, too. On January 6, 2021, at least 10 terrorists vandalized and torched a Quest Kodiak aircraft belonging to Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) on the Pagamba village airstrip.

On February 8, 2021, a 32-year-old man was shot at close range in Bilogai village, Sugapa sub-district.

On April 25, 2021, armed Papuan groups operating in Beoga sub-district, Puncak district, ambushed State Intelligence Agency (Papua) chief Maj. Gen. I Gusti Putu Danny Karya Nugraha and several security personnel while they were visiting Dambet village. Nugraha died in the attack.

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Translator: Evarianus S, Rahmad Nasution
Editor: Gusti Nur Cahya Aryani
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