Close to fifty locals from Vanimo were denied entry into the PNG-Indonesian Border at Wutung at lunch time today, by the Papua New Guinea Defense Force soldiers, under the command of the Vanimo-Based Commanding Officer, Peter Waiaki.
Despite officially declaring the Border open in an international meeting held on Wednesday, the safety of civilians is not guaranteed.
Indonesian officials have made it clear that the Border incident is a minor issue, and wants to reopen the border for trade.
Meanwhile, the PNG OC has discouraged all Vanimo residents and locals from crossing the border until his counterpart in Jayapura assures him that it is safe to cross over.
The meeting was not aimed at resolving the border fight between the West Papua Revolutionary Army and the Indonesian soldiers. Instead, it focused on reopening the border and security for civilians along the border.
Officials from both sides met at No-Man’s land, then proceeded into the Indonesian side of the border under military escort.
It was attended by delegations from the two border provinces, military personnel and consuls representing both nations. Both parties expressed the importance of cooperation and the need to maintain the existing bilateral relationship.
“The safety of PNG civilians going into Batas to trade is guaranteed”, said the Head of Border and Trade for Papua Province in Jayapura, Susano Maggai
She further stated that, “If PNGDF soldiers come across any West Papua element on PNG side of the border they are requested to capture them and hand them over to Indonesians so they will be dealt according.”
Towards the end of the meeting, the Border was officially announced open by the Acting Deputy Sandaun Provincial Governor Paul Negai.
He told Indonesian officials that while PNG understands that West Papua is an integral part of Indonesia, he wants Indonesians to tighten up its Military because of the Border Development Authority project currently under construction on the PNG side of the border.
Both parties have agreed to meet more often to have open discussions on other related issues.
Meanwhile, PNGDF OC in Vanimo, Peter Waikia, has called on journalists reporting on the border issue to report responsibly.
While he appreciates the work they are doing, he said such sensitive issues must be reported with care, as they are putting the lives of civilians at risk.
He also encouraged journalists to confirm their reports with the concerned authorities on the ground, before releasing their reports.