JAKARTA – Civil groups accused the Indonesian government and its armed forces on Tuesday of concealing the state of emergency suffered by more than 5,000 displaced by the secessionist armed conflict in Papua province.
The situation has persisted since the Indonesian armed forces began a military operation in December in the remote and mountainous Nduga municipality after 16 state construction firm workers were killed by the West Papua National Liberation Army.
The offensive led to the displacement of 30,000 people, mostly to the town of Wamena, some 60 kilometers away, where around 5,200 remain, according to the activists.
The Volunteer Team for Nduga (Tim Relawan Nduga) and the Solidarity Team for Nduga (Tim Solidaritas Nduga) said that the distribution of aid in Wamena is very low, and there is a scarcity of food, medical personnel, medicines and programs for treating the trauma of the displaced, in a humanitarian crisis denied by the armed forces.
In Wamena, at least 139 have died due to diseases caused by poor conditions and malnutrition since December, with at least 41 of those aged under five, Marthinus Academy researcher and member of the Volunteer Team of Nduga, Hipolitus Wangge, told EFE.
Indonesian Army spokesperson in Papua, Muhamad Aidi, ruled out an emergency situation and said the data on the displaced cannot be confirmed as Nduga does not have a civil record.
“People here chose to migrate from Nduga to here, they are here with the point to reside here,” Aidi told EFE by phone.
The Ministry of Social Affairs earlier this week approved the allocation of 750 million rupiah (some $53,600) for those affected, although it has not acknowledged the number of displaced or dead.
Wangge defended the data, which has been collected on the ground through observation and interviews with the volunteers, displaced persons, members of the local administration and non-governmental organizations in the underdeveloped municipality.
According to the academic, Indonesia, which restricts the entry of foreign academics and journalists to Papua, wants to maintain a “low profile” conflict for fear of affecting its international reputation.
The western half of the island of New Guinea, where the province of Papua is located, belongs to Indonesia and is a territory rich in natural resources and it has been the site of a separatist conflict since its independence from the Netherlands. The eastern side belongs to the Republic of Papua New Guinea.