A team consisting of humanitarian workers of the Evangelical Church in Indonesia (GIDI) and one member of the Papuan Provincial Parliament (DPRP) have compiled updated information about the situation of internally displaced persons (IDPs) during a field trip to the Puncak Regency between 6 and 12 July 2021. The humanitarian team brought 7 tons of rice to Puncak for distribution among IDPs in Ilaga and Gome districts. According to data from the Social Affairs Department in Puncak Regency, at least 4,862 persons from 5 districts have been internally displaced since April 2021. In addition, an unknown number of IDPs have sought shelter in the villages Paluga and Bogolobak, Ilaga Utara District. Two women and three minors IDPs have reportedly died since April 2021.
Explosives reportedly damaged nine church buildings in Puncak during security force raids against the TPN PB (see photo, source: GIDI). The humanitarian team interviewed multiple IDPs who witnessed Indonesian security forces indiscriminately opening fire at residential areas during attacks from helicopters and on the ground.
The security situation in Ilaga, the main town in Puncak Regency
The humanitarian workers from the GIDI church arrived in Ilaga by aeroplane on 6 July 2021. According to them, security forces were strictly guarding the area around the airport. To monitor the people entering Puncak by plane, members of the military have taken over all transportation services in the airport area. Some military members have become agents selling fuel at military posts. Moreover, the military has occupied three government-owned buildings in Ilaga and uses them as an operational base.
Police officers reportedly prevented the humanitarian team from visiting four villages where IDPs had sought shelter. Instead, the GIDI team was told to drop the rice in front of the district government office in Ilaga. After negotiations with the local police and the head of Gome District, the church workers could deliver some of the humanitarian supplies to the Gome District.
The situation of IDPs in Puncak Regency
According to information received, the IDPs in Ilaga were not accommodated in shelters. The weather in the Puncak Regency is too cold to accommodate the IDPs in tents. Church leaders and village heads encouraged residents to accommodate the IDPs in private houses after the local government had failed to develop a solution to deal with the IDP’s arrival. Traditional houses of average size can accommodate 10 to 15 persons, larger ones up to 30 persons. However, the hygienic facilities available cannot cope with the increased number of residents. Additionally, most IDPs do not have blankets, soap or other basic sanitary necessities. Moreover, the traditional houses do not have windows or proper air circulation, making IDPs and residents particularly vulnerable to fast transmission of COVID-19 and other communicable diseases.
According to the Head of the Social Affairs Department in Puncak Regency, 4,862 IDPs reside in the village of Kimak in Ilaga district. The majority of them originate from the districts Omukia, Ilaga Utara and Ilaga. A smaller number of IDPs fled from the regencies Gome Utara and Mabugi. Each IDP shelter has only one toilet. Most IDPs have to walk far to the next river to shower or wash clothes as the government has failed to set up additional hygiene facilities like toilets. The team only encountered one IDP community where IDPs had received medical attention after three adults and two minors passed away within a short period.
Despite contributions of rice from private donors and the government, the local authorities in Puncak do not have sufficient humanitarian supplies to cope with the large number of IDPs. The Social Service Department in Puncak Regency claimed it received only 150 tons of rice from the Ministry of Social Affairs in Jakarta.
On 7 July 2021, the Regent of Puncak Regency, Mr Willem Wandik, reportedly arrived in Ilaga and organised a traditional cooking ceremony with the IDPs in the Kimak Village. During the event, the Regent called upon the IDPs to leave the town of Ilaga and return to their home villages. The statement caused widespread rejection among the IDPs, as houses, churches, and gardens have been severely damaged in many villages. Moreover, the security force operations are still ongoing in many parts of the Puncak Regency, putting indigenous Papuans at risk of being targeted, tortured, or killed during such indiscriminate security operations.
Customary leaders called upon the government to immediately withdraw the troops from the villages to allow the safe return of IDPs to their homes.
Witness testimonies about security force raids in Puncak
Members of the humanitarian team also collected information among the IDPs on various security force operations among the IDPs. According to witness testimonies, many operations have been conducted with little or no measures to ensure that attacks are conducted against combatants only, without putting the civilians at risk. Attacks from the air and on the ground reportedly caused damages to nine church buildings in the Ilaga Utara District. IDPs from various villages reported that members of the security forces indiscriminately opened fire at residential areas. Such attacks were reported from the villages:
• Nipuralome (Ilaga District) on 4 June 2021
• Olenki Village (Ilaga Utara District), on 27 April 2021: helicopters reportedly opened fire at houses using explosives and heavy machine guns.
• Tegelobak Village (Gome District), on 4 April 2021, helicopters reportedly opened fire at houses using explosives and heavy machine guns, while ground forces indiscriminately opened fire at villagers working in their gardens. Security force members allegedly tortured one villager shortly after the attack.