Jokowi joins Christmas celebration in Papua amid shooting uproar
Hans Nicholas Jong
The Jakarta Post
President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo attended the national Christmas celebration in Papua on Saturday, marking the first time the country's easternmost province played host to the event.
Jokowi, accompanied by First Lady Iriana, their children, Kahiyang Ayu and Kaesang Pangarep, as well as Trade Minister Rachmat Gobel and Cabinet Secretary Andi Widjajanto, arrived at Sentani Airport, Jayapura, at 2:30 p.m. local time.
Upon arrival in the province's capital, Jokowi received a traditional welcome as artists performed a traditional Papuan dance.
Local officials who welcomed Jokowi included Papuan Governor Lukas Enembe, Papua provincial legislative council (DPRD) speaker Yunus Wonda and Papua Police chief Insp. Gen. Yotje Mende.
Shortly after, Jokowi and his entourage visited the Prahara traditional market in Sentani, Jayapura, where they attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of two markets in Jayapura and Sentani.
In a speech, Jokowi said he visited the traditional market to show his commitment to supporting the development of traditional markets in Papua.
'My promise is to develop markets in Sentani and Jayapura. Today I have shown my commitment and [the construction] will start immediately,' he said.
Jokowi also warned local government officials against charging illegal levies on mama-mama, local women who work as vendors in the market.
After wrapping up his visit at the market, Jokowi went directly to Waringin Sports Complex in Jayapura to deliver a speech to the crowd that began gathering in the morning.
In his speech, Jokowi said Papuans should take pride in the fact that the national Christmas celebration was being held in their province.
'This year, we have to be grateful that our Christmas celebration is being held in Papua, in Jayapura,'
He promised that he would return to Papua by the end of next year, after vendors at Sentani Market asked him to come back to inaugurate the new market.
'They said that construction of the market would be completed by the end of 2015. Therefore, when it is inaugurated, it will coincide with New Year. So, I will return for the inauguration,' Jokowi said.
Jokowi also finally broke his silence on the recent shooting incident, allegedly committed by military personnel, in Paniai Regency, Papua, which claimed the lives of five civilians.
'For me, the most important thing is not to let such incidents happen again because I want to start building here,' he said.
Earlier, a number of church leaders in Papua urged Jokowi to cancel his plan to visit the province on account of their disappointment over the government's slow response to the incident, which also left 21 others injured.
Jokowi's public statement on Saturday was his first since the shooting incident occurred.
He said he wanted to get a comprehensive account on the incident before issuing a statement. 'I was not in a rush to comment on the incident because violence occurs a lot in Papua. If I make a comment but it doesn't solve [the problem] then my comment serves no purpose,' Jokowi said.
He also called on the local government to continue holding talks with the central government to prevent violence in the future. 'Dialog is important so that the central and the regional [government] are in sync. No more violence in Papua,' Jokowi said.
On Saturday evening, Jokowi attended the national Christmas celebration at Mandala Stadium, Jayapura. More than 400,000 participants took part in the celebration, which was estimated to cost Rp 20 billion.
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