Escalating Papua Violence Raises Serious Questions
Markus Junianto Sihaloho& Ezra Sihite
Complacency by the authorities is allowing a spate of shooting incidents in Papua to go unchecked and unsolved, underscoring President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s weakness in addressing problems in the province, observers say.
Legislators, activists, academics and Papuan residents all questioned on Friday the government’s failure to arrest any of the perpetrators after more than 30 shooting incidents in the past year in the country’s easternmost region.
“It’s just strange that the government can’t solve a single case even after nearly 30 people have died recently in the province,” said opposition legislator Tubagus Hasanuddin, a member of the House of Representatives’ Commission I, which oversees security affairs.
“It seems like the authorities are allowing [the violence] to happen.”
House Speaker Marzuki Alie alleged that some people were deliberately orchestrating the bloodshed in order to grab power and get access to the province’s abundant natural resources.
“Some have used the chaotic condition there to benefit themselves,” he said.
Marzuki, a member of Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party, said that the shootings could indicate that people were fighting for control of natural resources.
While he did not rule out the possibility that soldiers and local officials could be involved in the incidents, Marzuki said the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) must identify the groups behind the incidents.
Aleksius Jemadu, dean of Pelita Harapan University’s School of Social and Political Sciences, said he suspected that the authorities’ inability to solve any of the cases was due to the involvement of security officers in the incidents.
“Although the military as an institution can’t be involved, some of its members might be. These incidents show that Jakarta has failed to address the problems in the province. The shootings indicate that the local officers don’t listen to the central government,” he said.
Tjahjo Kumolo, another opposition lawmaker, said that the reputation of the TNI, as the military is known, would be severely hit if it could not prove that it could bring security to the province.
“I am sure the allegations against the TNI are untrue. However, the military should work with the police to find those responsible so that they can put the rumors to rest,” he said.
A Papuan caucus at the House also demanded the TNI and government put an end to the violence after at least 15 people were killed in the past month.
The caucus also demanded that the government investigate a shooting spree on Wednesday that they claimed resulted in the deaths of 15 civilians.
“The perpetrators must be punished, even if they are soldiers,” said Paskalis Kossay, the coordinator of Caucus for Papua.
Several Papuan lawmakers demanded that Yudhoyono form a team to investigate the shootings, including Wednesday’s reported killings.
“Local residents have reported the shootings to authorities,” said Papuan legislator Diaz Dwijangge.
“However, we have continued to witness incidents of violence in the last several weeks. If the government continues to do nothing, we are afraid that the shootings and violence will continue.”