A human rights group on Sunday questioned whether the government had been “too cautious” in dealing with conflict in Papua, adding that it placed too much blame on the separatist Free Papua Organization.
“We are really concerned that the government is losing the political commitment to promote dialogue between the central government and Papua,” said Haris Azhar, chairman of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras).
“Is [the government] simply too cautious about the Papua problem or is it too afraid to confront powerful groups in Papua, which might have a special agenda?”
Kontras said it recorded at least eight violent clashes in Papua since the start of July, claiming the lives of 25 civilians and three Indonesian soldiers, and injuring scores more people.
The intensified clashes occurred soon after hundreds of indigenous Papuans attended peace talks from July 5 to 7, at which Djoko Suyanto, coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, was a key speaker.
Haris said the government was using separatism as an excuse to take repressive measures, even after it had stated that it would not deploy more soldiers to the area.
This was counterproductive, Kontras activist Chrisbiantoro said, as not only had the recent conflicts claimed more victims, but they covered a wider area and had more root causes.
“This situation is getting worse because the government blames the Free Papua Organization [OPM], but there has been no investigation of OPM’s role in the conflict,” he said. “And they support the presence of the military to solve the situation.”
Chrisbiantoro said the government needed to learn from its experience in Poso, Central Sulawesi, an area racked by sectarian conflict in the early reform era. Separatism accusations made by Jakarta only worsened the situation, he said.
Kontras said the central government needed to adopt three main policies to prevent the conflict deteriorating: it should stop making provocative statements, allow only the president or the chief security minister to speak on the issue and abandon all repressive policies.
Chrisbiantoro said the government should not panic about a legal motion in London seeking a referendum on independence for the West Papuan people.
“There are many developed countries with economic interests in Papua that would prefer to deal with Indonesia than an independent Papua and I believe the international world still looks at that way,” he said.