Jakarta – The government may deploy more troops in Papua if it deems the escalation necessary to maintain security, Home Minister Tito Karnavian has said, amid reports of tensions between security forces and armed civilian groups in Indonesia's easternmost province.
"The state cannot be outdone by anyone who violates the law, including this armed group. If they kill people, we will enforce [the law]. If there are not enough troops, we will add more," the former National Police chief said on Thursday, as quoted by kompas.com.
Tito said the government was paying close attention to development and prosperity in Papua. He called on members of local armed militia groups to unite with the government and play an active role in facilitating development in the restive province.
Those who joined with Indonesia would be guaranteed their welfare, he said, adding that those who had violated the law would still be prosecuted.
Tito said the government was considering extending Papua's special autonomy (Otsus) status, which is slated to end next year, and asked regional heads in Papua to optimize development with the central government funds available until then.
"Please really use [the funds] optimally for development to create jobs. The natural resource potential of Papua is truly extraordinary, as are its human resources, and this [development] will progress quickly," he said.
"If everyone has a job like in West Papua then we hope they will be involved in development, rather than in killing other people."
Actually, Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data show that the open unemployment rate in West Papua province has remained consistently higher than in Papua province.
In August 2014, BPS recorded a 5.02 percent unemployment rate in West Papua and a 3.44 percent rate in Papua. In February 2019, West Papua recorded a 5.28 percent open unemployment and Papua 3.42 percent.
Echoing Tito's statement, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD said the government still considered the armed groups Indonesians.
"I think this country is very open if they want to surrender, to build. Their citizenship has not disappeared, so just go back to being Indonesian citizens," Mahfud said.
Indonesian Military spokesperson Col. Gusti Nyoman Suriastawa said on Thursday that five members of a separatist group had surrendered to the military and rejoined Indonesia because they "felt insecure" and "wanted to live a normal life with their family".
The five former separatists pledged loyalty to the government in front of military personnel and residents on Wednesday, he said. They then participated in an Indonesian flag ceremony and signed a statement. (syk)