Jayapura/Jakarta (The Jakarta Post/ANN) ¿ Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is downplaying the deteriorating security situation in Papua, describing the recent series of unsolved fatal shootings as not too bad, comparatively speaking.
"The recent incidents in Papua can be considered small-scale, with a limited number of casualties. They are far too minor if we compare them to the violence in the Middle East, where deadly attacks with so many fatalities occur almost every day,¿ the President told a Cabinet meeting at the Presidential Office yesterday in Jakarta.
However, Yudhoyono added a cautionary note: ¿Even though the incidents in Papua were not as big as that, we cannot ignore them.¿
Violence in Papua, the country¿s easternmost province, has been escalating after a series of recent fatal shootings and attacks, principally in the provincial capital of Jayapura and in Wamena, the capital of Ja-yawijaya regency.
At least 16 people have been killed in the past month alone.
The latest incident occurred on Sunday, when Tri Sarono, 44, a security guard and part-time motorcycle taxi driver in Jayapura, was shot dead near the campus of Cendrawasih University.
Karel, a local resident who runs a small stall in Jayapura, said he felt uncomfortable doing his daily activities because of the violence.
¿The perpetrators of the shootings are still at large. Their whereabouts are unknown. They could be anywhere here. We never know who will fall victim next. It could be me or you or anybody in the city,¿ Karel told The Jakarta Post.
Karel, a native Papuan, said he has been closing his stall two hours earlier than usual, even though the decision cost him hundreds of thousands of rupiah a day.
Another local resident, Katarina said she has been anxious while her daughter was in school.
¿It is always haunting me, the image of a mysterious gunman coming to school and shooting children,¿ she said.
National Police chief Gen. Timur Pradopo said that officers had heightened their investigation of the incidents.
Timur said that the police had arrested three people in Jayapura, declining to specify why the individuals were arrested or if they were members of the separatist Free Papua Movement.
Meanwhile, Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Adm. Agus Suhartono said he would ensure that TNI troops would avoid acts that might lead to human rights violations.
¿I have instructed my men not to act excessively,¿ Agus said.
A military officer was attacked and beaten to death in Wamena in retaliation for an incident where TNI troops on a motorcycle hit a boy and fled the scene.
After the officer was killed, other troops retaliated, ransacking and setting fire to civilian homes and attacking people at random, leading to the death of one man.
On the Wamena attack, Agus said the TNI would help build makeshift homes for those who lost theirs.
¿The TNI will investigate our members who allegedly violated our code of ethics, but the police must also arrest those who killed my man,¿ he said.
The director of Papua-based Human Rights Study and Advocacy Group, Ferdinan Marisan, said he was concerned about false perceptions, given that most of the victims of the shootings were non Papuans.
¿The recent killings can also lead to the assumption that Papuans are violent and love to attack and kill,¿ Ferdinan said.
The National Intelligence Agency chief, Lt. Gen. Marciano Norman, said on Monday that at least three parties, including the OPM, foreign agents and local residents themselves were behind the waves of shootings and violence in the province.
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