Jakarta. Chief Security Minister Wiranto said the Indonesian government has decided to restrict access to foreign nationals who want to visit Papua and West Papua due to safety and security concerns, after two weeks of violent pro-independence protests rocked Indonesia's two easternmost provinces.
The protests were triggered by a series of racist incidents against Papuan students in Semarang, Malang and Surabaya on the island of Java on Independence Day, Aug. 17.
In Surabaya, the capital of East Java, a boarding house for Papuan students was besieged by an angry crowd who repeatedly called the students "monkeys."
Thousands of people have participated in sporadic rallies in several cities in Papua and West Papua since Aug. 19 to express their anger over the acts of racism.
Most of the rallies turned violent, with angry mobs setting fire to public facilities and government buildings, such as in Manokwari and Sorong in West Papua and Deiyai district in Papua, which resulted in the death of a soldier and two civilians.
"Once the security situation has improved, foreign visitors will be free to come again to Papua [and] West Papua to see the natural beauty of places like Raja Ampat," Wiranto said.
"But if we let them come now when chaos still reigned, what if even one of them gets killed? It will only cause more problems," the retired Army general said.
He said limiting the number of foreigners visiting the two provinces is done to protect them and also to prevent supporters of Papua independence from entering the island.
"We can't separate real tourists from Papua independence supporters just from their looks," he said.
The Immigration Office in Sorong, West Papua, on Monday deported four Australian citizens who allegedly participated in a pro-independence rally in front of the mayor's office on Aug. 27.
"The entry restriction will only be temporary. It doesn't mean that no foreign national will be allowed into the island at all, it's a limitation not a ban," Wiranto said in Jakarta.
The minister did not specify when the restriction was going to start or for how long.