Jakarta, TNI ‘must directly talk to Papuans’
Erfi TriasunuThe Indonesian Military (TNI), lawmakers and experts all agree that Jakarta must directly talk with Papuans who have separatist aspirations to immediately end conflict in the province as the international community continues to urge Indonesia to respect human rights there.
Papua Military Commander Maj. Gen. Erfi Triasunu said in Jayapura on Tuesday that all differences between separatists, or the so-called Free Papua Movement (OPM), and the government could be resolved through dialogue.
“We have seen a series of clashes in recent weeks, but they happened because there was lack of communication. I am sure if we can talk, then we will avoid conflict.”
Concerns have increased over the latest violence in Papua, especially the fatal shooting on Oct. 19 in Jayapura during the third Papuan People’s Congress, which attracted a crowd of about 5,000 Papuans.
The police and the military forcibly dispersed the assembly and arrested 300 people. At least three dead bodies were later found near the venue, leading to an allegation that the police had committed human rights violations while dispersing the congress. More than a dozen people have been killed in the province in the last three months.
US President Barack Obama raised the subject of human rights violations in Papua when he met with President Susilo Bambang Yudho-yono on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Nusa Dua, Bali, last week.
Erfi said the TNI had initiated talks with Papuans at the subdistrict, district and regental levels.
“Talks aim at finding a solution to the conflict so that Papua can become a land of peace,” he said.
In Jakarta, Ian Siagian, a lawmaker from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), said that no party but Indonesia could be faulted or blamed for recent developments in Papua, stressing that sending police and Army reinforcements would not solve the problem.
“I used to deal with OPM leadership overseas [in Australia]. I told them, ‘If you want direct talks with Jakarta, you have to accept our condition: territorial integrity.’ And they said OK.”
“So, the solution to the Papua problem is direct talks with the Papuans, including those who want to separate from Indonesia, not a security approach like the government is doing now.”
The Indonesian Bishops Conference on Papua also urged Yudhoyono to hold a dialogue with Papuans and stop using violence. “President Yudhoyono’s commitment to solve Papua’s problems publicly expressed earlier in his term needs to be realized. Dialogue should start with the heart. With an open heart, without any stigma, the government should listen to the Papuans’ history of suffering since integration with Indonesia,” the conference’s chairman, Martinus D. Situmorang, said.
Peace Papua Network coordinator Neles Tebay also said that a dialogue with Papuans needed to be held immediately before more people died.
In Yogyakarta, Gadjah Mada University Papuan expert PM Laksono said in a discussion that a sense of injustice had sparked prolonged conflict in the province.