Bishop criticizes excessive deployment of security forces in Papua

Bishop of Jayapura, Mgr Yanuarius Theofilus Matopai You. - Jubi/Rabin Yarangga

Jayapura, Jubi – The Bishop of Jayapura, Mgr. Yanuarius Theofilus Matopai You, has expressed concerns over the deployment of Indonesian Military (TNI) and Police personnel from outside Papua to the region, stating that it instills fear and discomfort among the local residents. Bishop Yanuarius made these remarks during a discussion titled “Quo Vadis Papua Land of Peace?” organized by the Secretariat for Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation of the Franciscan Papua in Jayapura City on Monday, January 29, 2024.

“The excessive deployment of security forces causes the community to live in fear,” he said.

Bishop Yanuarius argued that the deployment of security forces to Papua, under the pretext of maintaining sovereignty, has significant implications for the lives of civilians. According to him, the people of Papua are already traumatized by the presence of the TNI and police.

“The deployment of forces is making security in Papua increasingly non-conducive. Papua is not a military emergency area. Yet the people have to leave their villages, gardens, and businesses and go elsewhere. Their lives are very difficult, and it continues,” he said.

Bishop Yanuarius emphasized that the central government should create space for dialogue. Dialogue is a wise step to discuss and find solutions to the conflicts in Papua.

“If the dialogue space is not opened, we will continue like this. What have we done wrong? What sins have we committed that the central government and the president allow us to live in this situation?” the Bishop questioned.

A report from the Democracy Alliance for Papua (AlDP) in 2023 noted that at least 10,250 TNI soldiers and 1,416 police from outside Papua were sent and stationed in the region. These thousands of security personnel are involved in various tasks, including the Cartenz Peace Operation, border security operations between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, territorial community operations, public order, security operations for PT Freeport Indonesia,  and Susi Air pilot rescue.

The Director of the Secretariat for Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation of the Franciscan Papua, Alexandro Rangga OFM, emphasized the need for all parties to honestly discuss the issues in Papua. This is crucial for those with interests in Papua to take sincere actions to realize a peaceful Papua.

“We need to talk honestly about our home [Papua],” said Alexandro on Monday.

Alexandro stressed the importance of advocating for a peaceful Papua as conflicts persist in the region. He expressed concern that armed conflicts could escalate and trigger dangerous horizontal conflicts or conflicts between residents.

“If not, the slogan Papua Tanah Damai (Papua Land of Peace) that started 22 years ago will remain just a slogan. Those experiencing the lack of peace in Papua are the people themselves, regardless of the decisions made by political elites. The pressure on the people is increasing, and it is dangerous because every reaction to anarchic actions has a comprehensive effect in Papua,” he added. (*)

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