Worsening civil liberties in Papua: Calls to cease militaristic approach

KontraS dan Amnesty International Chapter Universitas Cenderawasih menyelenggarakan kuliah umum bertajuk “Meninjau Kebebasan Sipil di Papua: Betulkah Dibatasi Demi Kepentingan Jakarta?” di Kota Jayapura pada Rabu (17/05/2023). – Jubi/Theo Kelen

Jayapura, Jubi – In a public lecture organized by the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS) and the Amnesty International Chapter of Cenderawasih University on Wednesday, May 17, 2023, KontraS coordinator Fatia Maulidiyanti said civil liberties in Papua had worsened due to the deployment of the Indonesian Military (TNI) and Police. She emphasized that the Indonesian government should cease using a militaristic approach in Papua.

Maulidiyanti highlighted that, based on KontraS’ analysis, approximately 15,000 TNI and Police officers have been sent to Papua by the end of 2022. These officers were deployed for various purposes, including security operations, suppressing the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), and safeguarding national vital objects.

“In our records, we have observed a significant decline in civil liberties in Papua due to the presence of multiple military operations and policies that have affected the security of the Papuan people,” Maulidiyanti told Jubi after the public lecture.

The presence of the military in Papua has been accompanied by incidents of arbitrary arrests, torture, and the prohibition of demonstrations. According to data compiled by KontraS from October 2019 to December 2022, there were 34 cases of arbitrary arrests, 31 cases of forced dispersal, ten cases of persecution, eight instances of citizen shootings, seven prohibitions of protests, four cases of terror, two cases of intimidation, and one case of criminalization.

Maulidiyanti further argued that the underlying problems in Papua must be addressed through a humane, just, and representative approach. She emphasized that the government should consider the fate and circumstances of the Papuan people, and involve them in decision-making processes.

KontraS and Amnesty International Chapter of Cenderawasih University organized a public lecture entitled “Reviewing Civil Liberties in Papua: Is it Really Restricted for Jakarta’s Interest?” in Jayapura City on Wednesday (17/05/2023). – Jubi/Theo Kelen

“The formulation of policies should include the active participation of indigenous Papuan civilians in formal forums to provide recommendations and express the situation and needs of the Papuan people. The ones who can provide answers are the Papuans who have not been consulted by the State,” she said.

Lastly, Maulidiyanti emphasized the need for the government to evaluate the deployment of forces in Papua. Such an evaluation is crucial to determine whether their presence is effective and truly contributes to the well-being of the Papuan people.

“It is essential to examine how military operations, including the deployment of 15,000 personnel, are directly related to the underlying issues faced in Papua and whether they truly have a positive impact on the welfare of Papuans,” she said.

Meanwhile, Yuliana Langowuyo, the Director of the Secretariat of Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation (SKPKC) Franciscan Papua, highlighted the widespread repression of various actions in Papua by security forces. Langowuyo argued that such repression indicated a discriminatory treatment towards Papuans who wish to express their opinions.

“Freedom of expression in Papua is in a very dire state. Discussions in dormitories, open discussions, peaceful demonstrations, and even academic discussion are consistently disrupted and disbanded,” he said.

Langowuyo emphasized that Indonesia, as a democratic nation, should provide a platform for Papuans to freely express their opinions on state policies. The constitution of Indonesia guarantees freedom, including the freedom of expression. However, in practice, Papuans’ freedom to express themselves is consistently met with opposition from security forces

“When we try to speak up about our rights, we are dispersed, we are subjected to violence, and unfortunately, we have come to consider such incidents as normal. This is not normal for a democratic country,” Langowuyo lamented.

Additionally, according to Professor Melkias Hetharia, a lecturer at the Faculty of Law of Cenderawasih University, the situation in Papua can be attributed to a conflict of interests. Hetharia argued that the repressive actions of the TNI and Police indicated a lack of understanding of the essence of a functioning state. He highlighted an incident involving high school students in Sentani as an example.

Hetharia emphasized that freedom was a fundamental human right. He stated that it was the responsibility of the state to protect its citizens. “The presence of the state is meant to ensure the welfare and safety of society. The state should never resort to violence against its own people. When the police or the army fail to fulfill their duties professionally, they are in violation of the law,” Hetharia asserted.

“The presence of the state is meant to ensure the safety of society. The state should not resort to violence against its own people. When the police or army fail to fulfill their professional duties, they are in violation of the law,” Hetharia stated.

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