Public lecture calls for nonviolent alternatives in resolving Papua conflict

The atmosphere of the public lecture "Finding Alternatives in Armed Conflict in Papua organized by BEM USTJ in Jayapura City, on Saturday (13/5/2023).- Jubi/Theo Kelen

Jayapura, Jubi – A public lecture titled “Exploring Nonviolent Alternatives in Papua” was organized by the Student Executive Board of the Jayapura University of Science and Technology (USTJ) in Jayapura City on Saturday, May 13, 2023, where several prominent individuals and human rights activists participated in the discussion.

During the lecture, Melpayanty Sinaga, the Head of the International Relations Program at the Cenderawasih University, said that the longstanding approach of addressing conflicts in Papua by deploying security forces and conducting various military operations, such as the Sadar Operation (1968), Sapu Bersih Operation (1978-1982), and Cartenz Peace Operation (2022), has only served to exacerbate the conflict rather than resolve it.

Sinaga emphasized that the ongoing escalation of conflict has had the most significant impact on the inhabitants of various regions in Papua, including Intan Jaya, Puncak, Puncak Jaya, Yahukimo, Bintang Mountains, Nduga, and Maybrat. According to data compiled by the Papua Task Force of Gadjah Mada University, from January 2010 to March 2022, 468 lives were lost due to violence and conflicts in Papua.

“I conducted research in Sorong Regency and interviewed residents from Maybrat Regency who had sought refuge in Sorong. The conditions they were facing were truly dire. I witnessed how they were forced to leave behind their comfortable homes and either live in the forest or seek temporary accommodations,” Sinaga said.

According to her, it is crucial for the Indonesian government to prioritize addressing the underlying causes of the conflict in Papua as identified by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), namely the failure of development, the marginalization and discrimination against indigenous Papuans, state violence and alleged human rights violations, as well as the historical and political status of Papua.

Helmi, from the Democracy Alliance for Papua (ALDP), emphasized that the government’s security approach in Papua has consistently relied on deploying a significant number of troops that serve three primary purposes: pursuing the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), securing border areas, and safeguarding vulnerable areas or national strategic assets.

ALDP’s observations indicate that during the year 2022 alone, a total of 9,205 members of the security forces with combat qualifications were sent to Papua. This figure comprises 7,850 soldiers of the Indonesian Military (TNI) and 1,355 members from the National Police.

Helmi expressed that the current security approach has proven ineffective in resolving the conflict in Papua. To address the complex issues in Papua, Helmi the government should rather implement a conflict resolution mechanism through peaceful dialogue.

According to Helmi, it is crucial for the conflicting parties to jointly initiate and participate in the dialogue process. This approach should foster open communication, enabling the parties to listen to each other without suspicion.

He further highlighted that the dialogue should involve key stakeholders, including government representatives, TNI and police officials, as well as individuals considered part of the Papuan representation, such as the TPNPB, KNPB, ULMWP, and those residing abroad. Helmi suggested that a trustworthy and influential third party should facilitate the dialogue process.

“In the past, we had individuals like Neles Tebay and Muridan Widjojo playing significant roles. However, currently, we need to carefully identify a third party that can serve as a trusted facilitator for conducting dialogues. If the approach is similar to what Komnas HAM did recently, it is likely to face strong disagreement and opposition from multiple parties,” he said.

Emanuel Gobay, Director of the Papua Legal Aid Institute (LBH Papua) – Jubi/Theo Kelen

In line with Helmi, head of the Papua Office of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM Papua) Frits Ramandey urged the government and the TPNPB to promptly appoint representatives to initiate the peaceful dialogue.

“The participants of this humanitarian dialogue should be true representatives of both conflicting parties. Only then can meaningful progress be made towards resolving the conflict,” he stated.

Furthermore, Ramandey evaluated that there has been an increase in violence during the implementation of Papua’s Special Autonomy. According to Komnas HAM, there were at least 46 reported cases of violence in Papua in 2022.

“This indicates the implementation of the Special Autonomy Law has not been effective in addressing conflicts in the region. While striving for development, the unresolved conflict persists, undermining the government’s efforts,” stated Ramandey.

Ramandey highlighted that the Indonesian government has previously demonstrated its ability to resolve conflicts through dialogue, as seen in the case of the Free Aceh Movement in Helsinki, Finland, in 2005. He emphasized the urgent need for humanitarian dialogue to commence promptly in order to prevent further civilian casualties.

“If the dialogue does not begin immediately, and there is a substantial increase in civilian casualties resulting from the conflict, the United Nations may resort to intervention. In such a scenario, the focus would shift beyond human rights issues, and a referendum could potentially be initiated,” he cautioned.

Meanwhile, Emanuel Gobay, the Director of the Papua Legal Aid Institute (LBH Papua), asserted that the deployment of troops to Papua was unlawful. He argued that any deployment of a large number of troops must follow the procedure set out in Law No. 34/2004 regarding the TNI.

Gobay added that the government should focus on helping those who are displaced in Papua due to the ongoing conflict. He noted that the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) has not been dispatched to collect accurate data and provide necessary aid such as psychological support, shelters, education, and healthcare for the displaced people.

“The state has not provided accurate data on displaced people, which shows that these people are being neglected of their rights,” Gobay told Jubi on Saturday. (*)

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