President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo continued his trip in Papua on Sunday to inaugurate several projects, a day after opening historic national games in the easternmost province.

It’s for the first time that Papua becomes a host of the multi-event games held every four years.

Security concerns arising from recent rebel attacks at remote Papuan districts seemed to be a thing of the past as the president enthusiastically launched the 20th National Sports Week (PON) and played soccer with native Papuans inside the stadium in the provincial capital Jayapura, where the ceremony took place on Saturday night.

“This PON carries a crucial meaning for all Indonesian people. This PON sets the stage for equality and justice for us to move forward together and become prosperous together under the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia,” Jokowi said in his opening remarks.

The following morning, the president began non-stop trips across the province to inspect and inaugurate key infrastructure projects including an indoor stadium, a hospital, an airport terminal, a border crossing and a co-working office.

From Jayapura in the north, Jokowi flew across the island to inaugurate a border crossing near Papua New Guinea in the town of Merauke.

Jokowi said the integrated “border crossing complex” has commercial venues, a public market, worship buildings and other public facilities.

An estimated 350 people from neighboring Panua New Guinea cross the border gate every month to buy basic commodities, electronic products or automotive parts, Home Affairs Minister Tito Karnavian said.

“This creates business opportunities for residents to supply commodities for around 201,000 people in the nearby Papua New Guinea’s province,” Tito said.

Also in Merauke, the president inspects a new hospital which was initially built for Covid-19 patients. 

“The speed to build this hospital was super fast, taking less than 20 days,” the president said. As the number of new Covid-19 cases in Merauke has been in a steady decline, the newly-built LB Moerdani Hospital can now function as a general hospital, he added. 

Earlier in the day, Jokowi found a time to have dialogue with all regional leaders in the province at the governor’s office in Jayapura.

Development in Papua and West Papua has become central government’s priority since Jokowi took office in October 2014.

During his first term, the president visited the two provinces at least 12 times.

The weekend trip was his second visit to Papua since he was reelected in 2019.

His first objective is to build infrastructure to ensure connectivity in the impoverished provinces, which have among the lowest population density in the archipelagic nation.

His government has built 3,446 kilometers of roads, 1,733 kilometers of which are already paved with asphalt, according to government data.

Ten new airports and at least six new seaports are being built in Papua and West Papua, some have become operational.

However, security issue remains the biggest hurdle in Jakarta’s development program for the two provinces amid escalating attacks by rebels. The most horrific attack came in December 2018 when a group of gunmen executed at least 17 construction workers in the remote town of Nduga.

Last month, rebels attacked medical workers in Kiwirok, leaving a nurse dead. They also burned down public facilities such as a clinic and a school building.

The Free Papua Movement, or OPM, has said in social media posts that they don’t hesitate to target “non-native” civilians including teachers and medical workers if they don’t leave Papua immediately.

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