Ending Violence in Papua

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  • Ambrosius Mulait, a pro-Papuan activist who was arrested on suspicion of treason, reacts at the courtroom before his trial at Central Jakarta District Court in Jakarta,  December 19, 2019. The peaceful protest of about 100 people had been held outside the presidential palace and military headquarters on Aug. 28 and followed a period of unrest in Papua. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

    Ambrosius Mulait, a pro-Papuan activist who was arrested on suspicion of treason, reacts at the courtroom before his trial at Central Jakarta District Court in Jakarta, December 19, 2019. The peaceful protest of about 100 people had been held outside the presidential palace and military headquarters on Aug. 28 and followed a period of unrest in Papua. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

    TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - THE government should prioritize dialog instead of using a security approach in seeking solution to the Papuan problem. Deployment of soldiers and police in the past year has proven ineffective. Security apparatus have not been able to quell armed groups from disrupting the peace. Meanwhile, the number of civilian victims continues to climb.

    The case of the death of Hendrik Lokbere shows just how appalling the situation is in Papua. The adjutant of the Vice Regent of Nduga, Wentius Nimiangge, died of mysterious gunshots on Friday night, December 20. Three days later, Wentius announced his resignation from his post. The incident should be a harsh slap in the face to central government for failing to guarantee safety in the regency.

    The government had deployed personnel from the Indonesian National Army and the Indonesian Police to Nduga since last year to hunt down armed criminal groups. Prior, the group calling itself the West Papua National Liberation Army had attacked workers from PT Istaka Karya, the contractor company building the bridge in the Yigi District. Scores of workers died as a result of the attack.

    A number of perpetrators from the incident have been apprehended and are being legally processed. Yet, the security situation in Nduga Regency still did not calm down. And it’s not only Nduga, Other regencies, such as Intan Jaya, are in the disruption. In mid-December, two soldiers from the National Army in Hitadipa District died from attacks by an armed group. Two months prior, three motorcycle taxi drivers also died from gunshots by the same group.

    Officials from central government should not exacerbate the situation by making arbitrary statements that could cause more distress to the Papuan community. Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law, and Security Mahfud Md., for instance, stated that a security approach has become even more imperative to dress down the separatist movement in Papua.

    This mule-headed stance of central government is incongruous considering how the security operation has obviously been a dismal failure and has in fact disrupted civilian life. In Nduga alone, 45 thousand residents have relocated since last year. The Papuan People’s Assembly revealed another 4,000 people relocated to Jayawijaya, Lanny Jaya, and Asmat. The local government’s humanitarian team claimed that 182 of the displaced died, while the Ministry of Social Affairs announced 53 had died. Data discrepancy shows up even more how the local government is not functioning as it should.

    The government should change strategies to put a lid on the Papuan issue. This can be begun by solving several core issues which so far have been ignored, including violation of human rights, discrimination, and racism. Amnesty International Indonesia noted 69 cases of suspected murders outside the law by security forces in Papua between 2010- 2018, with 95 victims. Of these victims, 85 were indigenous Papuans.

    Without an effort to put the lid on the cases from the past and to comprehend the wishes of the Papuan people, the government will continue to repeat its same mistakes. The security approach will only open new wounds for the Papuan people. The government would do better to try the dialog route — a proven method for success in the solution of the Aceh problem. If the government is absolutely serious and sincere, inevitably peace will surely come about.

    Read the Complete Story in this Week's Edition of Tempo English Magazine