On 11 January 2024, an important gathering took place at the Intipura Complex in Sorong Regency, Papua Barat Daya province. The event was themed “Face-to-Face Meeting of the West Papua Police Chief with the Maybrat IDP Community in the Sorong Regency,” aimed at addressing the concerns of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Maybrat and fostering dialogue between government officials and the residents.
The meeting brought together a diverse group of attendees, including military and government officials. Among those present were the Papua Barat Police Chief, Sorong District Police Chief, Sorong District Military Chief, PJ Regent of Sorong District, Maybrat Regional Secretary, and the Chairperson of the Maybrat IDPs Repatriation (see photo on top, independent HRDs). The face-to-face interaction lasted approximately three hours.
The event began with an opening speech by Mr Alowsius Saud, Chairman of the Intipura Complex RT, who served as the host for the Maybrat IDPs. He highlighted the plight of the IDPs and their need for support. Saud also appealed to the PJ Regent of Sorong to provide adequate housing assistance for the displaced residents. Members of the Maybrat IDP community spoke about the challenges they faced in terms of education. They also highlighted the ongoing presence of the police and military in their villages, creating fear among many IDPs in returning to their homes. The IDPs stated that people were no longer able to collect food and walk freely in the forest – an important part of indigenous peoples in Maybrat to sustain their livelihoods. They stressed the problem of access to education for their children in the villages Kamat, Faan Kahrio, and Ayata, where school facilities have been occupied by soldiers and continue to be used as military posts, preventing their children from accessing basic education services in the villages.
The Papua Barat Police Chief acknowledged the gravity of the issues raised by the residents, promising that their stories would be used for evaluation purposes, even if he couldn’t provide immediate solutions. The Regent of Sorong Regency, Mr Cliff Agus Japasenang, reiterated the Maybrat people’s status as native inhabitants. He added that the local government had provided 250 million rupiahs of financial assistance to the Maybrat IDPs in Sorong in the past year. Despite the ongoing difficulties faced by many IDPs in Sorong, Maybrat Regional Secretary, Mr Ferry Taa, expressed concerns about prolonged financial aid claiming that the funds would become an incentive for IDPs not to return to their villages. Ignoring recent armed clashes resulting in the death of two military members in Maybrat in mid and late-December 2023, he claimed that the Maybrat Regency was safe, appealing to the IDPs to return to their villages.
The Face-to-Face meeting closed with a symbolic distribution of basic foodstuffs and photo sessions with the IDPs. Observers concluded that the meeting provided space for direct exchange between IDPs and Government representatives but failed to provide solutions for the ongoing challenges and concerns of the Maybrat IDP community. Statements like those brought forward by the Maybrat Regional Secretary gave the impression that the local government is uni-laterally pursuing a fast relocation of all IDPs before the upcoming presidential elections on 14 February 2024 instead of finding sustainable solutions for a safe return of Maybrat IDPs to their villages.