President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Tuesday warned police officers and soldiers on the ground in Papua to abide by the law and follow proper procedures while attempting to maintain order in the restive province.
“I want inappropriate actions to be prevented,” Yudhoyono said prior to a cabinet meeting to discuss recent violence in Papua. “Though upholding the law is the duty of our officers, the implementation [of that duty] should not exceed what is appropriate, which could cause other problems.
“In cases where there are violations by military or police officers while carrying out duties in the field — which is not easy and is complex — sanctions should be handed down.”
His comments come after a military (TNI) rampage last week in the village of Wamena, in which police said one civilian was killed and 17 others were wounded. The attack was said to be retaliation for an incident in which angry villagers stabbed a soldier to death after he struck a child while riding his motorcycle.
While there has been criticism from lawmakers that the president has neglected the intensifying conflict in Papua, Yudhoyono said the central government had done no such thing. He called on his cabinet ministers to inform people of the government’s proactive approach.
“If we’re silent, we’re assumed to be not doing anything,” he said. “Talk, so people understand the problem. … Indonesia respects the law and international conventions, but without explanation, there will be wrong perceptions.”
Last week was a bloody one for Papua, particularly in the provincial capital of Jayapura, where at least seven people were killed. The most recent reported incident took place in front of the Cenderawasih University on Sunday, in which one person was shot dead.
“The action [attacks] can be said to have happened on a small scale with limited victims,” Yudhoyono said.
He contrasted the events in Papua with violence in Middle Eastern nations such as Libya and Syria, which have taken thousands of lives.
“The figure is far [lower] than the violence in the Middle East, [where] we can witnesses, every day, attacks and violence with huge numbers of deaths,” he said. “Despite that, even one casualty should not be neglected.”
With additional reporting from Antara