TNI Warns of More Unrest Among Neglected Papuans

TNI Warns of More Unrest Among Neglected Papuans

Jakarta Globe March 12, 2009, by Markus Junianto Sihaloho

Armed Foces Chief Gen. Djoko Santoso on Wednesday acknowledged that growing disappointment in Papua Province toward the central government that could potentially fan separatist movements and violent demonstrations.

“I believe the government has done its best to support development in Papua,” Djoko told journalists in Jakarta. “But not all groups can receive the benefits [of the development] because of the complexity of the problems and budget constraints.”

The military believes that separatist movements in Papua can be minimized by a better government approach to Papuan welfare, he said. Djoko also said the military would fully support the process of democracy in Indonesia, including in Papua, saying it would view any demonstration calling for independence as an act of freedom of speech.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono said the government would not use an “iron-fist” approach in dealing with separatists, but would always try a persuasive and soft approach through dialogues within communities. “I believe our police and military understand the situation and would tolerate any voice of dissatisfaction,” Juwono said.

He said attempts to seek government attention had been made in recent years in Papua and other provinces, like Aceh and Maluku.

“We have to make sure [the Papuans] are on the same level as other Indonesians on Java Island and that they would get the same services from the government,” Juwono said.

Separatism has been rife in the three provinces for decades. The government sealed a milestone peace agreement with the Free Aceh Movement, or GAM, in 2005, but the Free Papua Movement, or OPM, has continued low-level armed resistance.

On Tuesday, two men were shot and stabbed to death and another two were badly injured after they were allegedly attacked by members of the OPM, in Puncak Jaya subdistrict.

The deceased, both motorcycle taxi drivers, were identified as Zainal, 25, and Solihan, 35. Their passengers, Lince Telenggen, 19, and Yogile Kiwo, 30, were left with serious injuries.

Djoko said the police would look into the cases because of the 2004 Military Law, which dictates that military involvement should be limited to cases where there are external threats, while home security issues are under the command of police. “If the police asks us to help, we would help them,” he said.