By CLIFFORD FAIPARIK and REBECCA KUKU
AN Indonesian shopping centre frequented by Papua New Guineans at the border with Indonesia has been closed indefinitely after a clash between rebels and Indonesian soldiers.
This was confirmed yesterday by PNG Consular-General Geoffrey Wiri.
“The Operassi Papua Merdeka (OPM) rebels came across the border into PNG and fired shots back targeting the Indonesian military base on Tuesday,” he said. “There were no reports of casualties. The situation has calmed down (but) business activities at the border (remain) closed.”
Wiri, who is based in Jayapura, said the clash occurred near Wutung village in West Sepik.
PNG and Indonesian border authorities plan to meet next week to decide what to do next.
Meanwhile, Morehead Station manager Maninanzang Gantau said the situation along the southern part of the border in Western was normal.
“Indonesian officials will advise us when to stop villagers crossing into the Indonesian border town of Sota when they feel that it is not safe,” he said.
Gantau said the shooting near Wutung was probably a lead-up to the OPM flag-raising ceremony in November.
“Right now there is a heavy buildup of Indonesian military along the southern part of the border.”
He said West Papuans involved in the OPM and living outside West Papua usually return home to take part in the ceremony.
Meanwhile, West Sepik police commander Moses Ibsagi has warned PNG citizens living along the border not cross to Indonesia yet.
“The situation is still tense on the other side of the border (even though) our side is very quiet,” he said.
“We have two PNG Defense Force platoons on the ground and I have a manpower of 32 with me. Our instruction is to ensure the safety of PNG citizens living along the border and that government facilities are protected.”