Tensions worsened in Papua amid large-scale demonstrations against the discriminatory treatment of Papuan students that turned violent with clashes between protesters and security forces. Local residents 15 Aug attacked Papuan students in Malang who were protesting without police permission in support of West Papua independence. Next day in Surabaya, ahead of Indonesia’s 17 Aug Independence Day, an angry mob threatened and harassed Papuan students outside their dormitory, after locals claimed they destroyed national flag; police reportedly did not intervene but instead fired tear gas and arrested 43 students 17 Aug over flag issue, released them next day. In response to incidents, protesters 19 Aug began demonstrations in Manokwari, Sorong and Timika (Papua), some turned violent with local parliament building in Manokwari burnt down. Authorities deployed thousands of security personnel to region since 19 Aug; police 21 Aug said they arrested 45 people during protests in Timika, releasing eleven soon after. Information ministry 21 Aug temporarily cut internet access in Papua. Demonstrations 23 Aug turned violent when gunfight broke out between authorities and protesters in Wamena, one protester killed by police. Clashes continued 28 Aug, police reported one soldier and two civilians killed in Deiyai regency, while pro-independence activists claimed six protesters shot dead by police. Next day, protesters in Jayapura reportedly set fire to several govt buildings and damaged businesses. President “Jokowi” Widodo 29 Aug called for calm, while Coordinating Minister for Security affairs General Wiranto said the govt would not entertain demands for referendum on independence. Suspected Islamist militant 17 Aug attacked police officer with sickle in Surabaya, East Java; police shot suspect and took him into custody. Counter-terror unit Densus 88 arrested six suspects with alleged ties to Islamic State-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah during 22-24 Aug raids in East Java. Widodo 26 Aug announced plans to move country’s capital from Jakarta to new city on Kalimantan province on Borneo.
A dispute over a flag in Aceh is testing the limits of autonomy, irritating Indonesia’s central government, heightening ethnic tensions, reviving a campaign for the division of the province and raising fears of violence as the 2014 national elections approach.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono needs to act more firmly against institutions and officials that defy national court rulings or his inaction risks prolonging local conflicts.
The only measure likely to halt violence in Indonesia’s Papua province in the short term is a major overhaul of security policy.
Almost ten years after the 2002 Bali bombing, Indonesian extremists are weak and divided but still finding partners for new operations.
Election monitors should begin deployment to Aceh long before the 9 April election to deter intimidation.
Despite years of investment in community policing, the Indonesian police remain deeply distrusted by the people they are supposed to serve.
Lecture by Sidney Jones at International Policy Studies program of Stanford University, 5 December 2012.
Originally published in The Interpreter
Originally published in The Jakarta Globe
Originally published in Myanmar Times