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Jakarta Post

Papua’s cycle of violence

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, November 4, 2020   /   09:05 am
Papua’s cycle of violence A solder stands on a damaged truck following a road accident in Sugapa district, Intan Jaya regency, Papua on Sept. 11, 2020. Two soldiers riding on the truck were killed after the driver lost control of the vehicle due to failing brakes. (Handout/TNI's Kogabwilhan III)

Both the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) and the local independent Humanitarian Team for Intan Jaya reached a more or less similar conclusion about the cause of the death of a pastor in the Papua highland regency recently. The two confirmed each other’s discovery that military soldiers were behind the torture that claimed the life of respected religious leader Yeremia Zanambani on Sept. 19.

Komnas HAM commissioner Choirul Anam provided Monday details of how the acts of violence were perpetrated against Yeremia allegedly to extract information from him about an armed group responsible for the killing of Chief Sgt. Sahlan on Sept. 17. From Choirul’s description, the wounds that caused the pastor to die of profuse blood loss were a display of human cruelty which perhaps is rampantly practiced in Papua despite calls to deal with grievances and dissenting voices there.

In their reports, Komnas HAM and the independent humanitarian team hold Chief Sgt. Alpius Hasim Madi of the newly formed Hitapida district military command (Koramil) accountable for Yeremia’s death. According to the Papua-based independent team’s finding, Alpius was close to Yeremia as the pastor had often given him meals and allowed him to take a bath at his home.

Prior to the pastor’s death Alpius and his subordinates had gathered a number of local residents in their search for the people who killed Sahlan and seized his rifle. Intimidation was clearly at play as the soldiers set a three-day deadline for the return of the arms. A witness told the independent team the soldiers even threatened to bomb their village if they refused to cooperate.

As in the Intan Jaya case, the use of violence only breeds new violence. On the day when Yeremia was tortured, a group of armed people believed to be part of the West Papua National Liberation Army attacked the preparatory Koramil, killing a soldier.

The government also formed an investigation team, which, despite doubts over its credibility, reflected the President’s will to resolve the series of violence plaguing the remote, underdeveloped regency. Now that Komnas HAM, the Papua-based team and the government-sanctioned team have submitted their reports, the ball is in President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s court and follow-up actions are all that the public is waiting for.

It may have become a cliché, but Komnas HAM’s recommendation for an end to the security approach in Papua following what has happened in Intan Jaya should not fall on deaf ears this time around. Indonesia has been widely criticized and certain countries have openly campaigned for Papuan independence due to the vicious cycle of violence, which simply is the consequence of the use of an outdated security lens to view Papua problems.

For nearly 60 years, this hard approach, characterized by mass deployment of military and police forces, has not led to long-lasting peace in Papua. Despite the heavy presence of forces, conflicts have continued to occur, killing not only those armed, including young soldiers, but also unarmed civilians.

Time to reset and restart the way to settle the Papua issue beyond doubt.