The Jakarta Post
In an effort to foster peace in restive Papua province, President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo granted clemency on Saturday to five political prisoners incarcerated in Jayapura.
The five Papuans, convicted of breaking into a military arsenal in Wamena in 2003, were immediately released after receiving letters confirming that the remainder of their sentences would be waived.
Jokowi personally handed over the documents to the men ' Apotnaholik Lokobal, Linus Hiluka and Kimanus Wenda, each sentenced to 20 years in prison, as well as to Numbungga Telenggen and Yafrai Murib, who were sentenced to life.
'[We must] see the granting of clemency from the context of conflict resolution and in a framework of making Papua a land of peace,' Jokowi told reporters at Abepura prison.
'Today, we're releasing these five detainees to stop the stigma surrounding conflict in Papua,' he said.
Jokowi added that the release was only the beginning. 'There will be a follow-up by granting clemency or amnesty to other [political prisoners] in other regions,' he added, referring to around 90 other political prisoners currently incarcerated throughout the nation.
Jokowi said the government expected the prisoners to join the community and take part in development projects after their release.
Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna H. Laoly said that the clemency might also cover those involved in the South Maluku Republic (RMS) separatist movement.
Latifa Anum Siregar, the lawyer representing the five, applauded Jokowi's move.
'The clemency shows that the government is taking one step forward in upholding democracy,' said Latifa, who is also the director of the Democratic Alliance for Papua (ALDP). 'We hope that the President will make another move by granting clemency to other political detainees and prisoners, making room for freedom of expression and promoting dialog.'
Others, however, have criticized Jokowi.
A representative of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence's (Kontras) Papua office said that Jokowi should have given amnesty.
'It is supposed to be amnesty, instead of clemency. There's nothing special about clemency. Amnesty instead could set a benchmark in a democracy,' Kontras' Papua office coordinator Olga Helena Hamadi said.
Yasonna defended Jokowi's move, saying that it signified goodwill from the government.
'Amnesty is not entirely under the President's authority since it needs approval from the House of Representatives. We are concerned about the political process at the House,' he said.
Jokowi has pledged to develop Papua, which remains one of the poorest regions in the country despite its abundant natural resources.
On the presidential campaign trail last year in Papua, Jokowi pledged that he would also open access to Papua and West Papua for foreign journalists and international organizations.
Later on Saturday, Jokowi ordered Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Moeldoko and National Police chief Gen. Badrodin Haiti to stop using repressive measures in Papua.
He called on the security personnel to promote dialogue with the Papuan people.
'Dialogue is important to build trust. Now, there's only distrust. The TNI and police hesitate to do something because of distrust. The same goes for the Papuan people,' he said.
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