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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Authorities Mum Over PNG-Indonesia Border Incident
Local official claims PNG youth assaulted by Indonesian soldier

By Haiveta Kivia

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Jan. 17, 2013) – Papua New Guinea Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato was still waiting yesterday to be briefed on the border altercation between Wutung villagers and Indonesian soldiers one week ago before making a statement on the matter, acting Foreign Affairs secretary Lucy Bogari told the Post-Courier. But the villagers claim there are serious underlying issues which have triggered the recent incident, especially to do with their customary land on the Indonesian side of the border, and they are calling on PNG authorities to do something about it or the border problems will continue.

The first incident one week ago today triggered a near-confrontation on the Papua New Guinea-Indonesia border between disgruntled Wutung and Sandaun (West Sepik) villagers and armed Indonesian soldiers.

Wutung rural local level government president Patrick Muliale told the Post-Courier that last Thursday, an armed Indonesian soldier tried to prevent a Wutung youth from riding his motorcycle into Bartas on the Indonesian side of the border for reasons unknown and the soldier allegedly assaulted the youth.

Mr. Muliale said the soldier was then mobbed by angry Wutung youths and a stand-off ensued between armed Indonesian soldiers and the youths.

"The youths were not satisfied with the treatment and on Saturday, they pulled down the Indonesian flag and another altercation ensued, but officials from both PNG and Indonesia managed to cull the situation," he said.

Mr. Muliale said yesterday that the situation is tense on the ground and there are other border issues that may have triggered the incident.

"We want Waigani to be more effective and proactive in its approach to border issues," he said.

Meanwhile, acting secretary for the department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, (DFAT) Ambassador Lucy Bogari says the government has its schedule, so the Post-Courier, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Rimbink Pato will be fully briefed before he makes an official statement on the incident.

When that statement will be made is not known and Ambassador Bogari said DFAT’s director general for political security and treaties will have a report ready for Minister Pato.

But Ms. Bagari’s response has not gone down well with Mr. Muliale, who asked the DFAT to be more proactive in its approach and to have more effective border administration office to deal issues as and when they arise.

Mr. Muliale said his people are continuously being harassed by Indonesian soldiers and authorities and the underlying issue is the international border.

"Our traditional land where we make gardens and where our hunting grounds are is on the Indonesian side of the border and we use traditional border passes, but when they (Indonesian authorities) refuse us entry and want passports, we are placed in a dilemma," he said.

He said they are then unable to go to their gardens, which is rightfully on their very own land but in Indonesia.

"The Indonesian check point used to be at Tami River but when they built Bartas, they also moved it closer to the Papua New Guinea border," he said.

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