Jakarta – The government has declared that armed criminal groups (KKB) in Papua are terrorists, following a string of clashes with security forces that saw the region's intelligence chief, one police officer and at least nine guerrilla fighters killed.
Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD announced the updated list of terror groups amid heightened tensions in Indonesia's easternmost province, which has been the site of decades of guerilla warfare pitting separatist groups against local security forces.
"The government has deemed that organizations and people in Papua who commit mass violence are categorized as terrorists [...] This is in line with Law No. 8/2018," Mahfud said during a press briefing on Thursday.
The Counterterrorism Law defines terrorism as the use of violence or threats of violence that could prompt widespread terror or fear, cause mass casualties or disrupt or damage vital strategic objects, the environment, public facilities or international facilities, using ideology, politics or the disruption of security as motives.
The addition of "disruption of security" in the law's wording has been construed to allow the Indonesian Military (TNI) to play a greater role in counterterrorism efforts.
Mahfud said the decision to add KKB to the list was made after receiving input from the speaker of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), the National Police chief, the TNI commander, figures from regional administrations and legislatures, local public figures and grassroots leaders.
They all appealed in one way or another, he said, for the state to take action against "the mass brutal killings and violence".
The coordinating minister said the TNI would assist the police on the front lines of the fight against the separatist groups and would avoid harming other Papuans.
"The stance of the government and people of Indonesia, including Papuans, is clearly based on United Nations General Assembly Resolution No. 2504/1969 concerning Papua's [Act of Free Choice, which states] that Papua, including West Papua, is a legitimate part of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia," he said.
The declaration came days after the Papuan regional head of BIN, Brig. Gen. I Gusti Putu Danny Karya Nugraha, was shot dead in a confrontation with rebels after they allegedly fired at patrolling security forces in the Papuan highlands on April 25, AFP reported. His death prompted President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to order the police and TNI to arrest the rebel groups on Monday.
On Tuesday, police said nine guerrillas and a police officer had died and two officers were wounded after an extended shootout between the police and rebels in Puncak district in what appeared to be retaliation for the slain regional BIN head, AFP reported, but rebel group spokesman Sebby Sambom dismissed the report of rebels being killed.
Allegations of extrajudicial killings and breaches of human rights, even against peaceful protesters and citizens, have long clouded the reputation of security forces and authorities in Papua, where a lack of accessible information has made it difficult to confirm conflicting reports. (ars)