The terrorist image of armed resistance movements in Papua was enhanced by the recent ambushes and shootings of eight soldiers. By murdering Indonesian soldiers, the perpetrators only fuelled support for lawful suppression.
There is no better way to consolidate Indonesian support for the subjugation of Papuan “rebels” than to construct troops as martyrs, consistent with the image of the Indonesian Military (TNI) soldiers’ honorable and heroic purpose defending security in Papua.
In the ensuing debates surrounding the latest tragedies, Indonesia’s lawful sovereignty over Papua and use of force is for Indonesians, a normative assumption.
Why has Indonesia’s sovereignty over Papua never been sufficiently challenged? Because Indonesia has worked hard to suppress the scale of Papuan support for independence and control the image of independence movements. It is alleged that Papuan separatist movements are small in number but highly violent.
Pro-independence Papuans are first and foremost fighting for the ability to be who they say they are and to represent their aspirations for nationhood. It’s a battle for the right to freely identify oneself. If the media were able to access Papua, the consensus for an independence movement would be broader and, thus, gain more influence.
So closing the region to media and maintaining an army with terrifying discretionary power not only allows Indonesia to control separatists with force, but also representation. It is a public relations tactic that leaves very little room to build a peaceful case for self determination.
It doesn’t seem to matter how many shocking human rights abuses are publicized; the presence and use of military force on the Papuan people is still justified and supported by Indonesians under the claim to lawful sovereignty.
Commissioner at National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), Natalius Pigai, made comments last Wednesday that the TNI said offended the families of the dead. The TNI and government ministers expressed indignation over Pigai’s statements that the TNI forces were mismanaged. Government ministers demanded Pigai be brought before the House of Representatives and his position as commissioner was threatened. Pigai then publicly apologized to the military.
It is indicative of an extreme lack of recognition that the only government appointed group supporting the rights of Papuan people and questioning people’s expectations about how war produces casualties, is apologizing to a military whose soldiers have been accused of mass genocide, were indicted for burning Papuan people’s genitals and who open fire on demonstrators.
The deaths of eight TNI soldiers and four civilians in separate incidents in Papua province led to many questions but clearly consolidated supportive sentiment for the activities of soldiers in Papua among commenter’s on news media sites as well as the responses of government representatives.
For pro-independence activists, the major obstacle to self determination is to obtain legitimacy.
Papuan secession lacks strength because Papuans are denied recognition. Information and image control is fundamental to any sort of domination, therefore Indonesia’s “unity in diversity” is supposed to allow for difference and then consolidate it under nationalism. Papuans can be different, but if they don’t want to be part of Indonesia they are rebels.
The recent shootings were detrimental to recognition because they further reinforced the danger of dissenters and confirmed the necessity of ongoing security.
Recently newly elected Governor Lukas Enembe said he will support dialogue and give voice to the various groups expressing dissent and dissatisfaction. Can he do this with all the guns pointed about? Indonesia has significant control over the image of the civil conflict, which is currently a no go zone for interference because it is framed as an in-house dispute with all the trappings that sovereignty bestows to keep outside accusations at arms length.
The reality of the situation and the real critical mass of support of autonomy are measured in mere leakages of information from activist, refugees and rebel leaders who are impugned as terrorists. Even President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s “welfare approach” wherein trillions of rupiah was poured in but never made it to the people, has illustrated that bribery cannot effect conquest and that despite trying to win hearts and minds through development, Indonesia has not improved the welfare of Papuans or their desires for independence.
Enembe expressed the hope he would be able to better distribute resources and engage dialogue in order to end the conflict and violence that has plagued the region. According to Enembe, government policies are not what Papuans want or hope for; development projects are vulnerable to corruption and while Papua is still seen as a land to profit from, problems will continue. Enembe plans to give voices to all interest groups in Papua and asked the government to closely monitor development programs.
However, as leader of the National Liberation Army of the Free Papuan Movement, Goliath Tabuni, said, the independence movement will not surrender and will continue their cause to institute full independence in Papua. With the ingrained culture of violence perpetuated by the military presence, and an ongoing denial of legitimacy for Papuan independence, this can only mean more conflict. The writer holds a Masters in communications from Griffith University in Queensland and is currently doing a Masters in human rights at Curtin University in Perth.
2) KOMPAS: The military approach still used in Papua
[Note: This item is several months old but we missed it at the time. The fact that it was published in one of the leading Indonesian dailies is worth special attention. TAPOL] KOMPAS, July 3, 2012 Jakarta: The Indonesian government is still using the military approach on security matters in Papua. Acts of violence in Cenderawasih land are still occurring. Shootings incidents occur daily. President Yudhoyono claims that the government is pursuing the welfare approach but this is not in accord with what is happening on the ground. These were the views expressed by Kontras coordinator Indira Fermida, and Rev Benny Giay, chairman of the Synod of the KINGMI Church.. Rev. Giay said that what the government says sounds great but the reality on the ground is difference. Shootings are happening every day, yet no one has been arrested. Some people say that it is the OPM, but where is the OPM? Rev Benny Giay and Indria, as well as Septer Manufandu said that it is not enough for the president to give instructions; he must also make sure that his instructions are being carried out. Presidential speeches should be followed up by carrying out concrete programmes. Healthcare and education are still in very poor shape in Papua.Many Papuas have no access to nutritious food and many children do nothing all day because they cant afford to pay school fees. 'There are lots of schools, but there are no teachers. In the clinics, there are no doctors or nurses and nothing in the way of medicine.' According to Septer, government plans for development wont solve the problems.The governmet should bring conflicting groups together , and there should be dialogue as quickly as possible. Albert Hasibuan, a well known Indonesian politician, said that he would present these aspirations and complaints to the president. He said that he was deeply concerned about the situation in Papua.'It is important to have dialogue. Something must be done to bring an end to the present situation.' [Translated by TAPOL]
3) Plan to hold an exposition in Jakarta about Papua should be called off
Bintang Papua, 19 March 2013 The Papuan provincial administration is planning to organise an exposition in Jakarta on OTSUS - Special Autonomy for Papua - in April, but according to Ruben Magai, member of Commission A of the regional assembly, the DPRP, this would be a complete waste of money. 'Cancel the plan for an exposition about OTSUS in Jakarta . It's just a waste of money. Some people are in favour of OTSUS while others areagainst.it. The government claims that it has been a success but Papuan people say that it has failed.' According to Magai, as it is being held by the government, it would only show the good things that have happened, but the fact is that Papuan people are still suffering. He went on to say that an event like that in Jakarta would only be attended by a limited number of people, while very few Papuans would be able to attend. According to Magai, it would be better to hold the event in Papua. 'This would mean people coming to Papua from all over the place, foreign diplomats and so on, and they would be able to see for themselves how OTSUS has been implemented. And investors could also be invited to attend, while on the other hand, local people would be able to put their handicraft on display. He felt that the idea of holding an exhibition was a good one, but the place and timing is not good. Regarding the timing, this will be just a couple of days before the new governor is sworn into office. He also said that local people have never been involved in events like this, not even at the planning stage. [Abridged in translation by TAPOL]