PNG - Indo border closed today due to security issues. Early morning gunshots in the nearby bushes warrants heavy presence of both PNG and Indo soldiers here,’ a PNG border resident advised in a Social Media post this morning.
Wutung Primary School students were also reportedly sent home from school, due to the disturbance.
This follows weeks of protests and unrest across the border in the Indonesian Province of Papua – after violence broke out in August in the Indonesian Province of West Papua (two different Provinces) - during which more than 50 people have reportedly been killed, hundreds of people have reportedly been injured, buildings and property burned to the ground and trashed.
Papua Province lays adjacent to West Sepik Province in neighbouring Papua New Guinea.
Social Media has been flooded with videos, images and posts of the ongoing protests by West Papuans - many painted in the Red, white and blue colours of the banned West Papuan Morning Star flag - demanding Self Determination and Independence from Indonesia, despite the Indonesian Government moving in military reinforcements, and cutting off internet access purportedly to stop the spread of misinformation.
Internet access or not; news from ‘on the ground’ sources shows no signs of protests slowing down altogether or ceasing completely until a new generation of West Papuans (or Papuans) achieve their goal in gaining Self Determination and Independence from Indonesia.
The increased risk of negative spill over effects into Papua New Guinea and the impact on border trade & tourism relations is of concern to former long serving PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, who in 2015 said: "I think, as a country, time has come for us to speak about the oppression of our people there."
By the end of 2018 the O’Neill Government had granted citizenship of PNG for free to more than 1,300 West Papuans living in PNG.
O’Neill – who last year also advocated for the West Papuan issue to be taken to the United Nations by Pacific Island Nation Regional Members - had the K10,000 citizenship application fee waived (set aside) and made free for West Papuan refugees.
In February this year– after being briefed on the situation at the border – O’Neill, as Prime Minister, personally paid a visit to the border and expressed disappointment at being ‘told lies’ about the real situation at the border.
Earlier tonight, O'Neill - who as PM promised to send a team to the border, and planned on returning later this year to personally follow up on projects for Wutung - said:
"The cries of the people of West Papua cannot be ignored by both the international community and the government of Indonesia. The constant human rights abuses experienced by Melanesians is unacceptable and warrants us to voice our concerns. PNG as the largest Melanesian brother can not continue to remain silent."
Pictured: The Morning Star Flag (on the right) flying alongside the PNG Flag (in 2015).Source: Facebook.com