Fighting spiked day after crackdown on rallies marking anniversary of West Papuan independence with 2 Dec killing of nineteen state contractor employees working on major highway construction project in Nduga district, Papua province; West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) armed group claimed responsibility, saying it regarded guards as members of military. Military launched hunt for suspects and mission to retrieve bodies; 3 Dec reported that militants using military grade weapons as well as spears and arrows attacked military post, killing one soldier and injuring two. At least four civilians reported killed in crossfire during subsequent fighting, in addition to unspecified number of soldiers and TPNPB fighters; hundreds of civilians reported to have fled to mountains. TPNPB video said group would continue armed resistance until it achieves self-determination; Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs General Wiranto dismissed idea of entering talks with group govt called “criminals”. TPNPB also called for govt to allow foreign journalists and international aid organisations to access area. Amid concern over suffering of civilians who had fled fighting, Papuan Governor Lukas Enembe 20 Dec called on President Jokowi to withdraw troops, and said local authorities would establish task force to investigate killings. Govt denied report in Australian newspaper late Dec that military had used chemical weapon white phosphorus in operation. Earlier in month, over 500 people reportedly arrested as thousands of people joined rallies in urban areas in Papua and West Papua as well as other parts of Indonesia 1 Dec marking 57th anniversary of West Papuan declaration of independence from Dutch rule; over a dozen protesters reported injured in Surabaya on Java island after clashing with nationalist paramilitary forces. UN Human Rights Office spokesperson said violence by armed groups was “unacceptable”, also that it was “troubled by the crackdown over peaceful demonstrations and increasing reports of excessive use of force by security forces, harassment, arbitrary arrests and detentions in Papua”.
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