Violence continued in Papua province, where tensions increased around national elections 17 April. Both incumbent President Widodo and his challenger, retired general Prabowo Subianto, claimed victory in presidential election; official results due 22 May, with private polls suggesting decisive lead for Widodo; Subianto continued to claim widespread fraud, raising concerns over contested result. Tensions heightened around general election in Papua’s Nduga regency as military pursued West Papua Liberation Army (WPLA); WPLA claimed it had killed two Indonesian soldiers early April, denied by military; military reported gun attack on election organisers and security forces in Alama district 18 April. WPLA claimed to have prevented voting in 32 districts, but military said voting not affected despite some exchanges of gunfire in Timika district. Two soldiers reported injured in ambush 24 April. Nduga local administration 3 April investigation report concluded that military committed human rights violations during crackdown that started in Dec 2018, and urged govt to withdraw. Report claimed almost 20,000 displaced by fighting, while Front Line Defenders NGO reported over 32,000; military said just over 3,500 displaced by armed group and rejected the report’s findings. Group of Papuan lawyers 12 April submitted judicial review to Constitutional Court challenging legality of Indonesia’s 1969 incorporation of Papua, saying that “Act of Free Choice” referendum was conducted in a way that “grossly violated the human rights of Papuans”.
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