S Sorong police drive away Papuan women traders
The local administration in South Sorong, Papua, along with the police have destroyed a market run by Papuan women who are known as ‘mama-mama’.
Their tables, chairs and the goods for sale were all destroyed and the mama-mama were forcibly removed. These actions commenced on Friday 11 May and have continued until now.
This was reported by Sarce Safles, one of the women who is responsible for the trading activities of the mama-mama, in a message sent to Jubi. She said that beforehand the local government had called a meeting with some of the traders, while others had not been invited. She said that at the meeting which she had attended, the women who were present explained about what happened to them:
‘We said that the mama-mama should be allowed to continue with their trading business at the usual location because conditions there very busy and good for business. There are many people living in the area which means that there any many people who will purchase goods on sale. Besides this, the location is regarded as sacred.’
The local government people ignored all these points made by the women, On 10 May, the assistant secretary of the local administration along with members of the local police descended on the location, smashed up everything and forced the women to leave. These acts of destruction continue on the following day and on then on Friday, other marketing places were smashed up and the traders were told to move to another location.
But there is no one is living at this new place, which means that there is no one there to buy anything, yet even so the local government continued their destructive activities.
To this day, these activities are still going on and traders are still being forced to find somewhere else to carry on with their business.
However the mama-mama are determined to remain at their old place for three reasons. First of all, they have been trading there for a long time already, secondly it is a very convenient place for these activities and thirdly, it is a sacred location.
For all these reasons, the mama-mama have decided to stand their ground but the government’s response was to mobilise the police, destroy the market and smash up their tables and chairs.
The women did try to returned to their old market in Ampera because the new location was a very great distance away, it was difficult to access and without anyone around who would buy anything. It is about three kms away and neither cycles nor motor cars cannot approach the new market place. Yet even so, the local government is forcing the women to move there.
An activist in Jayapura who confirmed all this information said: ‘The mama-mama traders have every right to insist on staying at that place and the local government should not behave in this way. They have no right to force the women to do anything.’ In her opinion, the local government should be facilitating the traders and should be responsible for providing profitable market places for the women.