Ryan Dagur, Jakarta – The Protestant Church Council in Papua has accused the Indonesian government of attempting to perpetuate unrest and push through unpopular policies by ousting the restive province's governor, a native Papuan who opposed them.
The council, which includes groups such as the Indonesian Christian Church in Papua, the Kemah Injili Church and the Evangelical Church in Indonesia, issued a pastoral letter on June 27 saying that if there is no serious commitment to resolving problems in Papua, then conflict will be "a constant thorn in the side bringing perpetual pain."
It came in response to the Ministry of Home Affairs recently appointing Papua provincial secretary Dance Yulian Flassy as acting governor to replace governor Lukas Enembe, who is undergoing treatment in a Singapore hospital.
The move was condemned by Enembe, who claimed "there was an unconstitutional conspiracy by certain elements" to overthrow him.
It also sparked strong protests from Papuan groups who have threatened to hold mass demonstrations at the governor's office.
Home Ministry spokesman Benni Irwan claimed on June 27 that Enembe was replaced "to keep the government and public services running smoothly" while Enembe was undergoing treatment.
This actually exacerbates the long-standing conflict between Jakarta and Papua
However, the Protestant council said the move was a blatant bid to divide Papuans and get rid of someone the government thought was opposed to it.
The council said replacing Enembe was part of a "character assassination of indigenous Papuan officials which has followed a pattern" since the region became part of Indonesia.
"This shows Jakarta's distrust of Papua as a province in Indonesia. This actually exacerbates the long-standing conflict between Jakarta and Papua," it said.
Replacing Enembe was also a tactic to push through controversial policies in Papua he opposed, including the proposed extension of the special autonomy law currently being discussed in parliament and the creation of a new autonomous region.
The extension of special autonomy status, which guaranteed Papuans the right to manage their own region politically, economically and culturally, has met with opposition from Papuans who would prefer to have a referendum on independence.
Church leaders also said the government should be serious about addressing the issue of human rights violations, which are currently seen as "unimportant and side issues."