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Papua and New Guinea - border incident at Wutung

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(Statement in the House of Representatives by the Minister for External Territories, the Hon. G.E. Barnes, M.P., on 30th April, 1969).

I wish to inform the House of recent events at

Wutung, a small village on the New Guinea coast and

within a few hundred yards of the border between the

Territory of Papua and New Guinea and West Irian. I am

now able to give the House more details than I had when

I issued a statement to the press last Sunday.

The village of Wutung lies approximately 30 miles

from the West Irian capital Djajapura and approximately

20 miles from Vanimo, the District Headquarters of the

West Sepik District of Papua and New Guinea.

For some years many West Irianese have entered

the Territory of Papua and New Guinea at Wutung. Ties of

kinship and tradition extend along the coast on either

side of the border and at various times small and large

groups of people have called at Wutung by boat or on foot.

Most have called to visit relatives. They are traditional

inhabitants of the border region. Some, dissatisfied with

their lot in 4' West Irian have come to seek greater employ-ment opportunities. A small number have sought permission

to remain in Papua and New Guinea for humanitarian reasons.

Those granted permission have settled in the Territory. The

remainder have returned to West Irian.

Late last year, a group of West Irianese established

themselves illegally near Wutung and just on the New Guinea

side of the border. Once it was known that these people

were living within Papua and New Guinea they were asked



to return and did. so. It is understood that they

established themselves in the bush across the border

from Wutung.

From reports that have been received from the,

Administration of Papua and New Guinea it is clear

that on Saturday, 26th April, 1969, a small group of

armed, uniformed Indonesians entered Papua and New

Guinea at Wutung in search of a number of West

Irianese who had crossed the border from their bush

camp on the West Irian side of the border.

During this incursion, the Indonesian party

fired shots at the Officer-in-Charge of Wutung Patrol

Post, Mr. A. Try, two native constables and the station

interpreter, none of whom was armed.

It also appeared that the party conducted a

house to house search of a Wutung hamlet. After a

prolonged discussion with the Officer-in-Charge, during

which a man who had been held by the party was released,

the Indonesian party returned to West Irian. No one was

hurt as a result of the incident.

I wish to mention the highly commendable

behaviour of Mr. Try, the Officer-in-Charge Wutung

and the Police who acted with great firmness in the

face of this armed group.

The situation at Wutung has now returned to

normal. The 79 West Irianese who crossed the border

are being accommodated at the YAKO Quarantine Station

near Vanimo. They are being cared for by the

Administration and in accordance with normal procedures


relating to border crossings, any claims they have to

remain in the Territory are being investigated.

Additional Administration staff have been sent

to the vest Sepik District and the police strength at

border stations has been increased to ensure adequate

protection for the Papuans and New Guineans in areas

near the border and for the Administration's officers.

The Government's policy in relation to the

border has always been premised on the principle that

international boundaries must be respected and this

is the basis of its policy regarding West lrianese

border crossers.

On this occasion the border has been breached

by armed officials of the neighbouring Government.

The Indonesian Government, with which our

relations in many fields, but particularly in regard to

the border, have been close and co-operative, has been

fully informed of this incident. Strong representations

have been made to the Government of Indonesia to avoid

any recurrence of such incidents and that Government has

given assurances to this effect.