The Jakarta Post
Frightened by a series of reports of missing persons in the past few weeks, several residents of Puncak Jaya, Papua, have left their homes to go to other cities or hide in the forests, officials say.
'I have received reports directly from family members about the missing persons in Tingginambut, Puncak Jaya. So far I have been told about five missing persons, one of whom is a high school student,' Papua Legislative Council Deputy Speaker Yunus Wonda said in Jayapura on Wednesday.
'People around Tingginambut have been living in fear following the tales about the missing persons. Many have gone to the forest. Civilians are paranoid about the security forces,' he added.
According to him, security personnel often pick up and interrogate civilians carrying machetes and arrows.
'Machetes and arrows are part of Papuans traditional culture. Many Papuans live by hunting,' he said.
Rumors have been circulating over the past few weeks about dozens of corpses in Tingginambut, some of which were dismembered.
The dead were said to be civilians reported missing around April.
The rumors have bred speculation that the Army's Special Forces (Kopassus) are behind the killings as retaliation for the death of a corps member in February.
A Kopassus member, along with seven other Indonesian Military (TNI) soldiers, were shot by unidentified perpetrators in Tingginambut.
Cendrawasih Military Command Commander Maj. Gen. Christian Zebua brushed off the speculation.
'It was false information. I have deployed a team to check and we did not find any missing civilian,' he said.
'I have ordered my men in Puncak Jaya not to hurt civilians. I believe the rumor is not true,' Christian added.
Puncak Jaya Police Chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Marselis, however, admitted having received reports of missing persons.
'We received reports of two civilians not having returned to their homes as of today,' he said on Wednesday.
In Jakarta, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto said that he had no information about events in Tingginambut.
'Where did you get the information from? Is it from reliable sources? These days, many false issues in Papua were intentionally spread for a ulterior purposes,' Djoko told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
'Issues related to Papua are always interesting to the media. I want to assure you that the government has been always serious in accelerating development in Papua.
'If some areas in the region seem to have been left behind, it was because Papua is geographically a very difficult region compared to other regions in Indonesia,' he added.
Rev. Neles Tebay of Papua, recognized as a peace activist, urged the police to carry out a transparent investigation into the reports of missing persons.
'If the government does not want to see more rumors spreading, the police must probe the reports and disclose their findings as openly and transparently as possible,' he told the Post.
Neles said he had also received reports of missing persons.
He said that many civilians in Puncak Jaya got the heebie-jeebies and fled to Jayapura because they felt unsafe.
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