04/14/2018, 10.39
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Papua, first visit by an Indonesian president to Asmat district (VIDEO)

by Mathias Hariyadi

Amazement and joy among tribals as Joko Widodo arrives among them. A meeting with the local Church has been cancelled for unknown reasons. Mons. Aloysius Murwito, bishop of Agats: "His presence will reap the blessing of this land and its people". The president's commitment to the development of the province persuades some separatists to abandon the struggle.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The first visit of an Indonesian head of state to the district of Asmat, a remote territory in the south of Papua, the easternmost province of the country, has ended. After two flights and six hours of travel, two days ago President Joko Widodo reached the capital of the regency, the town of Agats.

Last February, the Asmat district was hit by a serious humanitarian emergency, which caused the death of over 70 children with measles and malnutrition-related diseases. The local Catholic Church is among the first institutions to have assisted the local indigenous population. The bishop of the diocese of Agats, Msgr. Aloysius Murwito, has coordinated two teams of volunteers who have distributed aid in several villages of impervious territory, with unique characteristics that are not found anywhere else in the immense Indonesian archipelago.

In a telephone interview with AsiaNews, Msgr. Aloysius Murwito said that at first a meeting had been planned between the president and the local Church. Widodo had planned to visit the Museum of Asmat, managed and hosted by the diocese, and to hold a conference with some important local figures, including the bishop. However, this was not possible for unknown reasons and the head of state canceled the appointment. "I only had a moment to shake hands with the president but not the opportunity to discuss anything with him - says Msgr. Murwito - Despite the canceled appointments, his presence at Asmat certainly will reap the blessing of this land and its people ", emphasizes the bishop.

Accompanied by the "first lady" Iriana, Widodo spent two days visiting the local population (photo), the tribes of the Asmat ethnic group. They have expressed amazement and joy at being able to welcome the highest office of the State. No minister, or senior government official, had ever traveled to the district. Since the beginning of his mandate, in October 2014, Widodo has visited the province eight times. As proof of his commitment to Papua's economic and infrastructural development, the president visited a residential complex with thousands of houses just finished.

Since the annexation to Indonesia in the 1960s, a low profile insurrection has been underway in Papua for the independence of the region, led by armed groups such as the Free Papua Movement (OPM). According to some local analysts, Widodo's latest trip has changed the opinion of dozens of separatist figures, who have confessed their intention to abandon the struggle because they are convinced of the sincere interest of the nationalist leader for the fate of the province. Local tribes and their leaders have repeatedly filed complaints against Jakarta for over-exploitation of natural resources.

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