Arjuna Pademme, Jayapura – The National Commission of Human Rights (Komnas HAM) Papua has suggested the government return the refugees of armed conflict in Puncak Regency back to their respective hometowns.
"I have talked to Puncak regent Willem Wandik and the Puncak Police chief. The regent agreed to visit the refugees this week. Maybe later there will be a meeting between the government and the refugees to discuss about sending them back to their villages," Komnas HAM Papua head Frits Ramandey said on Thursday, June 3, 2021 after visiting the Puncak refugees earlier this week.
The rights body has recorded 3,019 refugees from 23 villages comprising nine villages in North Ilaga District, four villages in Ilaga District, five villages in Gome District, and five villages in North Gome District. These people left their homes to avoid armed conflict between the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) and the Indonesian Military (TNI) and police who chased after the TPNPB soldiers.
According to Ramandey, the main problems found in the refugee camps were the lack of clean water and health workers. "When they live in refugee camps, it creates a humanitarian problem including health problems, as well as restriction to their activities. That is why it is better to return the refugees home so that they can return to their activities," he said.
Ramandey said the Papua provincial government should help the Puncak government in handling refugees. "It is important for both provincial and Puncak government to collaborate [to return refugees home]. Especially because the TPNPB has guaranteed not to continue armed violence [in villages] in Puncak," he said.
Ramandey said he had talked with one of the TPNPB leaders who said he would guarantee the safety of the refugees who wish to return to their villages. "They said they did not want any more war. If there is war, it's not them," he added.
Ramandey, however, did not mention the name of the TPNPB leader he met several days ago. "It was off the record but [the TPNPB leader I met] sure has a big influence in the TPNPB," said Ramandey.