Government needs to play nice when dealing with Papuan conflicts
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Unless the government shows goodwill in dealing with Papua and issues policies that touch the hearts of Papuans, conflict in the resource-rich province will never be resolved.
The latest bloody incident in Papua was the killing of three people — one soldier and two civilians — last Saturday.
This took place with authorities still unable to identify those behind the killing of three men earlier this month.
Munafrizal Manan, of Academic Forum for Peace in Papua, said positive signals from Jakarta are needed to encourage Papuans who, for decades, have been subject to human rights abuses.
“Jakarta has to make moves that touch the hearts of Papuans. Cutting the number of security forces deployed here, for example,” Munafrizal said Thursday.
It is public knowledge that Indonesian Military personnel and the National Police have perpetrated human rights violations in Papua.
Common charges include sexual violence, use of excessive force against demonstrators and torture.
According to an estimate by human rights advocacy group Imparsial, around 16,000 soldiers are stationed in the easternmost province. “They are deployed along with nearly 10,000 police officers,” Poengky Indarti of Imparsial told The Jakarta Post.
Aside from reducing the number of security personnel in Papua, the government needs to bring the perpetrators of human rights abuses to court.
“Further action from Jakarta should mean cracking down on the people who committed these crimes against humanity,” Munafrizal added.
Bringing the violators to justice will help alleviate the distrust ordinary Papuans feel toward central government.
“If the government wants to win the heart of Papua, it should stop calling protesting Papuans separatists. The government also needs to end the security approach when dealing with Papuans,” said Thaha Alhamid, of the Papua Presidium Council.
“It could also stop viewing Papuans as lazy and stupid.”
Pasakalis Kossay, a House of Representatives member from Papua, said that the government should begin treating Papuans exactly the same as other Indonesians.
“There is confusion about what it means to be a Papuan. Many Papuans see themselves as second-class citizens. The government doesn’t help, often sending mixed signals to Papua,” Pasakalis said.
In June, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono downplayed the rise of violence in Papua, calling the deadly shootings of that time as “small-scale incidents compared to those in the Middle East”.
Papuans condemned this statement. The Jakarta Post quoted Papuan activist John Djonga as saying that the President’s words suggested that the lives of Papuans “don’t deserve the government’s respect”.
Munafrizal said that removing these doubts Papuans have of their status as citizens would open the way toward dialogue.
“Communication will begin once mutual suspicion and distrust between Jakarta and Papua is gone,” Munafrizal said. “Of course, this means that Papua has its own role in resolving conflict.”
Papuans have their own responsibilities when it comes to opening communication channels with Jakarta.
“Papuans should show commitment to becoming Indonesians,” Munafrizal said “and take action to alleviate the Government’s fear of Papuan separatism.” (png)