Recent unrest marred with violence in West Papua in Indonesia is forcing tour operators in the province to ban tours to the beautiful Mount Carstensz, Indonesia’s highest peak, as safety is not assured anymore.
West Papua is a very distant territory from the rest of Indonesia and particularly from the capital, Jakarta. It has a very tensed history with the rest of Indonesia as many Papuans never recognised the fact to be part of Indonesia. Independence movements are strong in that part of the country. hile the Netherlands retreated from Asian territories -Indonesia and Papua in the late fifties, Papuans declared independence in 1961 which was followed by a war with Indonesian military.
In 1962, a United Nations-sponsored treaty to ease the territorial conflict was signed by the Netherlands and Indonesia over West Papua, promising to give Indonesia a temporary mandate over West Papua until a referendum for the independence would be held. In 1969, a ballot of selected Papuans in the region gave to Indonesia the right to integrate the territory, a move which since has been contested. Many Papuans want to have a new unbiased referendum, a move rejected by the Central Government in Jakarta.
In late September, West Papua has seen riots and violence for over two weeks with angry crowds torching government buildings and shops. Estimation give a total of 50 people being killed. Some 700 people had been rounded up for questioning over the deadly riots, according to Indonesian military.
According to Indonesian news magazine kompas.com, all tour operators and related tourism businesses have been urged to reconsider offering services to tourists, especially foreign visitors, who want to hike Mount Jayawijaya or Mount Carstensz in Papua province over safety concerns.
“We anticipate the potential of security interference and guarantee the safety of foreign tourists, particularly those seeking to enter limited areas including the Carstensz Pyramid,” said Mimika Police chief Agung Marlianto in the advisory issued by Mimika precinct police (Polres) on October 1st, as quoted by kompas.com.
Standing at 4,884 meters above sea level, Carstensz Pyramid or Puncak Jaya is the highest summit of Mt. Jayawijaya and the tallest mountain in Indonesia.
The advisory specifically called on tour operators, airlines and air transportation service providers based at Timika airport to reconsider offering hiking tours to Ilaga, Nduga, Sugapa and Carstensz Pyramid base camp. All parties must communicate with the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the National Police (Polri) to help control and monitor the mobility of foreign citizens to keep them away from any threats and disturbances.
Denny Engka, a hiking tour operator, declared to the magazine that the advisory was issued as a result of the riots that erupted in Wamena and Oksibil. “Hiking permits will not be processed until Papua has calmed down,” said Denny Engka.