Ivany Atina Arbi, Jakarta – Military operations conducted by the Indonesian Military (TNI) in Nduga regency, Papua, in the past few months have led to various human rights violations, a recent investigation initiated by the Nduga administration has alleged, allegations that the TNI has denied.
According to the investigation report, TNI personnel allegedly destroyed and burned down residents' houses–forcing thousands of people to leave their homes for safety. The personnel are in Nduga in search of the West Papua Liberation Army (TPNPB) fighters who killed 19 workers of state-owned construction firm PT Istaka Karya in December.
Tens of thousands of the fleeing residents currently live in neighboring districts without access to sufficient food, education or health services. Around 4,238 residents have fled to Kagayem district, 5,021 people to Yal district, 5,056 to Jigi district and 4,001 persons to Inikgal district.
Hundreds of others have decided to take refuge in the forests, spending nights "between life and death," the report claims. "At least nine mothers have given birth in the forests without proper medical treatment, risking their lives," it says.
TNI personnel have also reportedly shut down and destroyed at least 34 churches during their operations in the conflict-ridden regency. SION GKI Mapenduma church has even been used by the TNI as a headquarters.
Residents alleged the TNI has killed at least 25 people, including two students, who were not connected to separatist rebels.
"Nduga residents now live in fear and trauma. They have lost everything during the military operations," said an investigator, Theo Hesegem. He urged the government to withdraw the TNI from Nduga and instead adopt a soft approach through dialogue.
Similar opinions were expressed by local clergymen Erson Wenda and Esmond Walilo and Catholic priest John Jonga. The three figures expressed hopes that residents could go back to their villages and rebuild their homes and other public facilities soon.
"We have seen numerous military operations and human rights violations since 1969, and it seems that we are far from the finish line," John said, adding that the key to stopping the clashes was the government's willingness to arrange a sincere dialogue with the Free Papua Movement.
"Since the leadership of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, we have been fed with false promises of a peaceful dialogue, but this never comes true," Erson said.
They were addressing a press conference facilitated by Amnesty International Indonesia in Jakarta recently.
Usman Hamid, director of Amnesty International Indonesia, urged the government to immediately address the problem in Nduga, especially survivors struggling in evacuation sites.
"The government must take necessary action immediately," he emphasized, adding that the government should also ensure punishment of any military personnel proven to be involved in human rights violations in the region.
Papua military spokesman Col. Muhammad Aidi told The Jakarta Post that the report alleging that military personnel had destroyed houses and churches was a "hoax."
"We, the TNI, are committed to the Geneva Convention [against torture, other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment]. So, it is inconceivable that we would destroy a place of worship," Aidi said, adding that the investigation was carried out by groups who sided with the Free Papua Movement.