Ina Parlina, Jakarta – The government said on Monday that it would prioritize a soft approach in addressing separatism, including by engaging in negotiation and dialogue, as well as the possibility of granting clemency and unconditional release to political prisoners.
However, it added that it may still take a hard approach met with resistance.
The instruction to use a soft approach was issued by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo during a plenary Cabinet meeting on Monday.
"A soft approach will always be the priority of the government, since we believe that a soft approach is better than other means," Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung said after the meeting at the State Palace.
Pramono added the government would implement a similar mechanism to that used in handling the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), including the chance of granting amnesty and unconditional release, as stated in a 2005 presidential decree.
"The pattern used for resolving [issues related to] GAM, in line with Presidential Decree No. 22/2005 [on amnesty and unconditional release for GAM members], will be implemented in various regions," Pramono said.
"However, if it is not possible because there are differences in terms of [political] views, including an intention to separate from the country, then the government will keep using a hard approach," Pramono added.
National Police chief Gen. Badrodin Haiti said the President had indeed made the call to adopt the soft approach used in handling the GAM issue to settle separatism in other areas, including Papua, adding that Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan had been tasked with assessing whether granting amnesty was possible.
"Such a pattern was able to solve violence in Aceh," Badrodin said. "However, if it is used to no avail and [a person] still carries out violence, stern action will be needed."
In May, during his second visit to Papua, Jokowi said the release of political prisoners incarcerated in Jayapura was only the beginning. At the time, Jokowi granted clemency to five prisoners as part of efforts to foster peace in the restive province.
"There will be a follow-up by granting clemency or amnesty to other [political prisoners] in other regions," the President said, referring to around 90 political prisoners incarcerated nationwide.
Jokowi has also called on security personnel to promote dialogue with Papuan people in order to build mutual trust, saying he wanted to change the repressive security approach of the past to a development and welfare approach.
The move sparked mixed responses from activists, with some expressing doubt over how Jokowi's administration would follow up.
Budi Hernawan, a research fellow at the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM), criticized the government for using a security-oriented approach in Papua instead of a social approach. According to Budi, building mutual trust was indeed the key to addressing the Papua issue.
"Mutual trust is essential. Papuan people want to have dialogue with the central government. However, the two sides interpret dialogue differently," he said on Sunday, adding that Papuans wanted a way to freely voice their aspirations, including political aspirations, where they could also discuss past human rights abuse cases in Papua.
According to Budi, assigning the coordinating political, legal and security affairs minister to handle issues in Papua instead of the coordinating human development and culture minister or coordinating economic minister showed the government was still taking a security-oriented approach.