Jakarta – The Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) expects continued conflict in Papua unless the government takes immediate steps to better coordinate its security forces in the region and hold intensive dialogue with native communities.
The recommendation was made based on an ongoing study conducted by LIPI starting August this year. In the study, LIPI involved representatives from local administrations and civil society groups from 26 districts in Papua.
"President [Joko] Jokowi [Widodo] is more committed than previous leaders to reducing conflicts in Papua and embracing local communities. Unfortunately, he is unable to order bureaucrats in the area to implement his policies," LIPI analyst Adriana Elisabeth said during a discussion in Jakarta.
The study advises Jokowi to instruct security authorities, both the military and the police, to pay closer attention to developments in Papua. LIPI also advises the government to hold dialogues with local administrations and civil society groups to achieve long-term peace.
"That is the best way to win back public trust in the central government; meet people and listen to what they need, what they want," Adriana said. "Papuans don't like the government's way of just coming and giving orders. Papuans wants the government to involve them in policymaking," Adriana said.
Among the most concerning of LIPI's findings is the potential for heightened conflict following the establishment of a new military command in Manokwari, the provincial capital of West Papua.
The government plans to complete the establishment of the new command, which will be called Kodam XVIII/Kasuari and oversee two military regional commands, by the end of this year.
According to LIPI researcher Cahyo Pamungkas, the move may lead to a more repressive security approach by the military, which would further restrict the freedom of the people and fan separatist sentiment, particularly in isolated and border areas.
Cahyo added that the Dec. 9 local elections would likely bring more tension, particularly in Yahukimo, Pegunungan Bintang and Asmat regencies.
Yahukimo, he said, was a remote area accessible only by plane. "It will be hard for the regency to send the voting results quickly, and that could lead to manipulation of the votes," he said.
Cahyo said that the concern in both Pegunungan Bintang and Asmat, which share borders with Papua New Guinea, was the likelihood of candidates bringing people from the other side of the border to cast votes.
"This may lead to conflict among political parties and tribes in the regencies," Cahyo said.
Adriana meanwhile said that there was renewed concern among members of the Pacific region community about the situation in Papua.
The government, she said, had long considered the conflict in Papua as an internal affair and rejected any talk of possible foreign intervention.
However, new developments in the region include the formation of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) in December 2014 by three organizations under the Free Papua Movement (OPM).
The ULMWP coordinates activities and represents the resistance movement in collaboration with external parties. The movement in February officially joined the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), a sub-regional grouping in the Pacific comprising Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and New Caledonia.
"If the government wants to prevent Papua from becoming an international issue, it will have to find solutions," Adriana said. (foy)