Dialogue and Demilitarization Needed in Papua: Imparsial

Jakarta Globe by Arientha Primanita, Constructive dialogue and demilitarization are the best ways to prevent human rights violations in Papua, a rights watchdog said on Tuesday.

Al Araf, program director at the Indonesian Human Rights Monitor (Imparsial), said ending the military presence in Papua was needed to solve human rights problems in the region.

“The government must demilitarize and withdraw personnel,” he said. “There must be a peace-oriented approach to settle the conflicts in Papua.”

Al Araf was speaking at the launch of the book: “The Making of a Secure Papua: Implications of the Security Approach on Human Rights Conditions in Papua,” the result of 10 months of research by the organization in Papua.

Although there is no clear data on the number of military personnel in Papua, Imparsial estimates that there are 14,842 military personnel deployed in the region.

Al Araf said that security changes must be accompanied by the strengthening of civic and public authorities in the region. “Law enforcement must be conducted transparently and fairly,” he said.

“Human rights issues have not been emphasized in Papua but they are important because they are closely related to economic and sociocultural issues,” said Let. Gen. Bambang Darmono, head of the Special Unit for the Development of Papua and West Papua. “Constructive communication must be held between the government and the Papuan people.”

Thaha Al Hamid, secretary general of umbrella group the Papuan Presidium Council (PDP), said the military played a very important role in the region because they helped to defend the area.

He added that more important than the number of troops was the attitude and behavior of the military personnel, as that was often what residents objected to.

The Papua problem was a complex issue and needed the involvement of all stakeholders, Thaha said. “The most important thing needed from everyone in Papua is an open mind from the young generation, the religious leaders, the officials, the military and police officers,” he said.

Thaha also said that he was worried that the government was using allegations of corruption to try to force the area into integration with Indonesia. He referred to Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) findings that stated the use of Special Autonomy Funds in the province remained unclear.

The government has disbursed around Rp 28 trillion ($3.28 billion) from 2002 to 2010.

Speaking at the same event, Tubagus Hasanudin, an Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) lawmaker, said the complex problems in Papua stemmed from discrimination and marginalization by the central government.

“Military operations will never be the answer to settle the conflict in Papua,” he said, adding that the 2011 state budget had not set aside funds for military operations.

He said the special autonomy status that was given to Papua in 2001 was considered the best solution at that time, however, there had been no improvement in the local conditions since then.

“There have been total failures in the development of Papua’s local economic, health and education sectors,” he said.