Start the Dialog in Papua
The security and welfare approach have failed to resolve the conflict in Papua. The president needs to establish a special team to bring about dialog.
THE government should reevaluate the presence of the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the National Police in Papua. The huge numbers of soldiers and security personnel have proved unable to bring about peace in the region.
There is no sign of the violence in Papua coming to an end. From February 28 to March 9, there were three shooting incidents in the Mimika Regency, Papua. A police officer and two soldiers died as a result. More than 1,500 inhabitants of Tembagapura, Mimika, evacuated to Timika Regency. On March 12, an armed sound group set fire to a church in Tembagapura which they had been using as a hideaway. In Nduga Regency, from December 2018 to this February, approximately 250 people died as a result of the conflict.
The government is insisting on retaining joint security forces in Papua. Coordinating Minister for Political Legal and Security Affairs Mahfud Md said that the Joko Widodo administration would not withdraw around 5,000 police officers and soldiers from the region. Mahfud has said that pulling out these forces would lead to destruction in Papua. Although the security approach has been used, Vice President Ma’ruf Amin has claimed that the conflict in Papua will be resolved through a welfare approach.
The Jokowi regime has chosen to continue recycling the violence in Papua. The presence of police officers and soldiers in large numbers, accompanied by repressive measures against local people, is one of the roots of the problem that has never been addressed. Furthermore, the government continues to ignore human rights abuses by security personnel. At the beginning of March, the Attorney General’s Office decided to return the results of the National Human Rights Commission investigation into alleged serious human rights abuses in Paniai that killed six inhabitants in December 2014.
Jokowi’s ‘welfare approach’ is not an effective solution. The President has paid dozens of visits to Papua since 2014. He also built the trans-Papua highway to link a number of cities and made a ‘sea highway’—comprising cargo ships to make it easy to move logistics to the region. But this endeavor has not yet succeeded. Last year economic growth in the region was minus 15.72 percent.
The Jokowi administration has been unable to bring about a system of government that is both good and transparent in Papua. Special autonomy funds for Papua have frequently been misused. As a result, there are no visible results from the Rp94.24 trillion spent since 2002. However, this does not mean that the government should resolve the conflict through a security approach.
The government should immediately open a dialogue with elements of the Papuan people. But this dialogue can only go ahead if the government reduces the police and military presence in the region. Jokowi could learn from the administration of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Jusuf Kalla, which managed to resolve the conflict in Aceh in 2005. The government at the time prioritized dialogue with the Free Aceh Movement and managed to achieve a peace agreement—although it needs to be said this came about more quickly after the province was struck by the tsunami at the end of 2004.
President Jokowi needs to establish a special working unit to address a number of problems in Papua. Made up of professionals and with the involvement of Papuans, this team could design a road map for peace in the region. This could include seeking a solution to halt and thoroughly investigate human rights abuses.
It is time Jokowi he showed his seriousness in overcoming the humanitarian crisis in Papua. He could begin by giving the people of Papua a sense of justice by investigating human rights cases. Ignoring human rights abuses in Papua will only keep Indonesia under the global spotlight.