The Jakarta Post
The House of Representatives has rejected a government proposal to pardon political prisoners in Papua, citing fears that they would go on to inflame separatism in the resource-rich region.
The House on Monday met to discuss President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo's plan for a second release of Papuan political convicts, summoning Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi, Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Moeldoko and National Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief Lt. Gen. Marciano Norman to a closed-door meeting with House Commission I overseeing defense and foreign affairs.
Despite holding only a preliminary meeting to a discussion expected to bring in more officials, including Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Tedjo Edhi Purdijatno, to meet Commission I and Commission III overseeing law, human rights and security next week, Commission I refused to support the government's plan to grant amnesty to around 90 political prisoners in Papua and West Papua provinces.
'There are, as yet, no comprehensive programs by the government in Papua [to develop the region]. It's clear that the government institutions dealing with the matter have so far carried out only individual, ad hoc initiatives,' Commission I deputy chairman Tantowi Yahya told the press after the meeting.
'We require the government to first elaborate measures to be taken in Papua in a comprehensive roadmap. We will not give our support unless the government provides a clear and broad roadmap to be implemented in Papua,' the Golkar politician added.
According to Tantowi, the House received an official letter from Jokowi on May 7 seeking political support from the House for a plan to free more political prisoners following the release of five political detainees in Jayapura: Apotnalogolit Lokobal, who was serving a 20-year sentence, Numbungga Telenggen, serving a life sentence, Kimanus Wenda, serving 19 years, Linus Hiluka, serving 19 years and Jefrai Murib, serving a life sentence.
There are currently around 90 political prisoners detained in prisons around the restive region, including prominent political activist and former civil servant Filep Samuel Karma, who is serving a 15-year sentence for raising the banned Bintang Kejora (Morning Star) flag during a political rally in 2004.
In the press conference that followed the meeting, the ministers declined to discuss the plan, but did stress that Papua was not off-limits for foreigners, including foreign journalists.
'We've explained our responsibility in Papua, which is related to access to the land,' Retno said, explaining that her ministry had recorded an increase in permits issued to foreign journalists since 2011.
The House's summary rejection of the plan to free Papuan political prisoners disappointed human rights campaigners, who expressed hope that the legislature would come round.
'We recommend that lawmakers politically support the government's proposal, because the prisoners are not guilty. Set them free, for the sake of humanity,' said Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch.
Andreas highlighted Filep's case as an example of wrongful arrest that contravened international law.
Poengky Indarti of Imparsial said that granting amnesty to political prisoners in Papua would help to regain the trust of the region's people.
'It is part of a solution to solve problems in Papua peacefully,' she said.