Jayapura, Jubi – Commander of R 600/Modang Infantry Battalion Lt. Col. Inf Hanif Arridho said the villages in Suru-Suru District, Yahukimo Regency, are now empty. The local community is said to have fled after the escalation of armed conflict between the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) in the district.
“We were surprised by the uninhabited Suru-Suru District. The last act of terror in the area occurred in November 2021,” Hanif Arridho said by telephone from Jayapura on Wednesday, October 12, 2022.
Hanif said that since the R 600/Modang Infantry Battalion from the VI/Mulawarman Military Region Command in Kalimantan was seconded to Papua in June 2022, his party had paid attention to the condition of the Suru-Suru District. According to him, the Regent of Yahukimo had informed that the settlements in Suru-Suru District were abandoned by its residents.
“Yesterday, we finally landed [in Suru-Suru]. We were shocked because what was conveyed by the media and the regent was true, there was not a single resident there,” he said.
Commander of 1715/Yahukimo Military District Command Lt. Col. Inf JV Tethool also confirmed this. He said that following the escalation of armed conflict there, residents flocked to leave the village because they were afraid.
According to Tethool, local residents are still in the area. However, they no longer live in the village they built but choose to live in the forest.
“The local government along with the military have always tried to invite them to return and live as usual in the village. But they are too afraid of the terror,” he said.
Meanwhile, on February 3, 2022, a member of the Women’s Working Group of Papuan People’s Assembly (MRP), Sarah Ita Wahla, made a different comment regarding the displaced people in Suru-Suru. According to her, the armed conflict in Yahukimo is new. In the past, there was no TPNPB activity there.
According to Wahla, TPNPB was present in Yahukimo only after the TNI and police increased their number there. Since then, firearms trade has also flourished in the area.
“In the past, there was no TPNPB in Yahukimo. Now they exist in three places, namely in Suru-Suru, Siridala, and Gunung Road,” Wahla said.
Wahla said that the presence of the TNI and police actually disturbed Yahukimo residents. It made residents uncomfortable and unable to carry out their daily activities. “For example, they turned schools into security posts. School is supposed to be a safe place. Remember that Yahukimo was opened by missionaries, not the government or the military,” Wahla said.
She said that indigenous Papuans in Yahukimo used to live safely and peacefully. However, as the number of TNI and Polri members in Yahukimo keeps increasing, the residents start to feel unsafe. “The one that labels Papuans as terrorists, parts of the Free Papua Organization [OPM], or separatists is the TNI and police,” she said. (*)