Referendum not up for discussion: SBY
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has reiterated that he will not pursue dialogue with any party intending to push for a referendum or plebiscite in Papua.
“We can engage in dialogue to achieve progress on development, people’s welfare and justice. I constantly have dialogue with their leaders, but there is no room for discussion about a referendum or the like,” Yudhoyono stressed as he spoke in front of around 1,000 students from the Indonesian Military (TNI) Commando Institute and
National Police Field Officers Institute at the TNI Army Officers Institute in Bandung, West Java, on Friday.
Yudhoyono’s statement was in response to a question from one of the students regarding the government’s stance regarding the frequent human rights violations allegedly committed by military and police personnel in Papua.
Yudhoyono said the tasks carried out by the TNI and National Police in Papua and West Papua were part of overall efforts to uphold security and justice in the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI).
“The duties of the National Police and the TNI in Papua are to maintain security, protect residents, combat crime and uphold the law as part of their state duties,” he said.
During the occasion, Yudhoyono denied the notion put forward by some foreign entities that the conflict in Papua was due to the stifling of freedom of speech.
“If there is a movement in Papua to split, it’s called separatism; it’s not freedom of speech. It is against the spirit to maintain state sovereignty, including Papua,” he said.
A referendum, the so-called Act of Free Choice, was held in Papua between March and August 1969 at the end of the Dutch era. The results claimed that the majority of Papuans freely chose to have Papua become part of Indonesia. The United Nations ratified the results of the referendum in its assembly the following November.
According to Yudhoyono, since he took office as President, he had actively strengthened diplomacy with countries in the Pacific region, such as Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, plus the United States, regarding matters on geopolitics in the region.
“Whenever we draw up a memorandum of understanding [MoU] in the framework of a strategic partnership, there are always explicit statements from these friendly nations that they fully support our sovereignty and territorial unity,” he said.
Yudhoyono added that the Papua plebiscite conducted by the United Nations in 1969 clearly showed that the region was part of Indonesia, and that the result of the poll was final.
“We must respect the political process implemented by the UN,” he added.
With regards to the possibility of violence and violations of basic human rights by TNI or police personnel, Yudhoyono said any party that violated the law would face sanctions in accordance with the law.
“I have repeatedly told military and police personnel not to act excessively, not to break the law or violate human rights. Those who violate the law, such as professional soldiers in the Middle East, will face sanctions. At the same time, the state should not assign a task to soldiers or police that is unauthorized or has the potential to violate human rights,” he said.
Yudhoyono added that the government had given real attention to Papua in the form of policies. Since 2005, he said, a militaristic approach to quell conflicts had been replaced with an approach more concerned with people’s welfare and the wellbeing of communities.
“We have granted special autonomy [to Papua]. In 2011 alone, Rp 6 trillion [US$642 million] of the country’s leftover budget of Rp 26 trillion went on education, while the rest went to Papua, West Papua, Maluku, North Maluku and East Nusa Tenggara. We are serious about improving the welfare of our brothers in Papua,” he said.