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Vandalism, confrontations cited in Sandaun province

By Clifford Faiparik

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, July 15, 2008) – Indonesian soldiers have defied diplomatic and military protocols and continue to violate international border agreements with Papua New Guinea.

Government Ministers Belden Namah (Forest) and his Housing and acting Internal Security colleague, Andrew Kumbakor, were told by villagers and PNG Defence Force personnel at Wutung in Vanimo, Sandaun province, that there had been numerous border incursions allegedly made by the Indonesians at the end of May, June and this month, with the latest being last Saturday and yesterday evening.

[PIR editor’s note: Papua New Guinea’s Sandaun Province, formerly West Sepik, is located in the northwest corner of the PNG mainland, bordering the Indonesian province of West Papua.]

In one such incident, army personnel said the Indonesians defaced a cement PNG border monument at Wutung by spray-painting it with their 408 battalion symbol.

Angry PNG police and soldiers could not retaliate as there were no specific rules of engagement in place. Instead, all they could do was face the Indonesians and order them to leave PNG soil.

The ministers and Sandaun Governor Simon Solo were in Vanimo yesterday to get a first-hand briefing from provincial government officials, police and PNG Defence Force personnel on the ground on these alleged illegal crossings.

The parliamentarians were taken to Wutung to talk to the villagers and shown the locations where fully-armed Indonesian soldiers had crossed over into PNG territory.

Reports said on June 28, seven PNGDF soldiers led by Sgt Francis Kure met an armed Indonesian battalion and their commander and senior officers about 600 metres inside PNG territory and 100m from Wutung village and ordered them to retreat.

"They also defaced the PNG border monument by spray-painting their battalion’s 408 sign on it," Sgt Kure said.

Villager and retired police sergeant Patrick Ante and his family, who have just built their home along the border, were allegedly harassed by the Indonesians last Saturday.

Mr Ante recalled: "Six armed soldiers with a major came at around 11.30am (on Saturday) and intimated me for about two hours, telling me to remove my house, take my family and get out of this place.

"They said that I was on Indonesian soil," Mr Ante said.

"I told them that this is my land and Wutung land goes another 6km all the way to River Tami in the Indonesian side of the border.

"They then went to the side of the cliff and erected two ladders to climb down to the beach. They then returned to their barracks across the border."

Police officer Snr Const Joshua Umio, attached to the border post, said they encountered 10 armed soldiers on May 30 and June 16 inside PNG soil and told them to go back.

Defence Minister Bob Dadae could not travel to Vanimo yesterday due to electoral matters in his Kabwum electorate, Morobe province.

Deputy provincial administrator Tobias Welik said intelligence reports from the province had been send to all concerned authorities but seemed to have fallen on deaf ears.

"The information sent by the provincial intelligence committee to the national security advisory council is collecting dust at Waigani. Nobody seems to care," Mr Welik said.

A proposed joint border meeting has been deferred for two years.

Of the 59 PNGDF soldiers in Vanimo, a platoon of 25 personnel goes on a rotation basis for two weeks to be based at Wutung.

Upon arrival at the Jacksons Airport in Port Moresby at 8.15pm from Vanimo yesterday, Mr Namah and Mr Kumbakor were told that an Indonesian military aircraft had allegedly flown over Vanimo at about 7pm.

Mr Namah had vowed to table a report about these events in Parliament.

The National:

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