Nur Janti, Jakarta – The government has come under increased pressure to involve indigenous Papuans in the policy-making processes that affect them and to accommodate their will as the state pushes to redistrict the resource-rich region and augment its security presence there.
Over the past weeks, representatives from Papua have been meeting with government agencies, human rights groups and other stakeholders to voice their concerns over new policies and demand the resolution of human rights cases.
Most recently, representatives of Dogiyai regency, Papua, met with the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) and Amnesty International Indonesia to protest a plan to deploy more security personnel to the region.
Security forces were sent in to Dogiyai after at least 18 buildings were burnt down during a protest that turned violent last week. Authorities claimed that "unknown perpetrators" had failed to burn down a market and had instead started razing people's houses, prompting hundreds of residents to flee to the nearest police and military posts.
The motive for the arson remains unclear. Since then, the government has gone ahead with plans to establish a new police precinct (Polres) and a district military command (Kodim) in the area, which residents say is not a priority as the region has a generally low crime rate.
Komnas HAM plans to summon the Papua Police for questioning over fears that the deployment of more security forces could exacerbate conflict in the area. "We don't want more people to become victims and tensions to rise.
We hope there will be more dialogue between Papua and Jakarta," Komnas HAM commissioner Sandrayati Moniaga told reporters after the meeting on Monday. "We will summon the Papua Police in the near future." Before Monday's meeting, the Dogiyai representatives, who are members of the larger Papuan People's Solidarity group, visited Amnesty's headquarters in Jakarta.
"The Dogiyai people are worried that the establishment of new posts will lead to a land grab at the expense of the indigenous community," said Maria Goo, a Dogiyai representative, on Friday. She said authorities would requisition customary land for the construction of a new police precinct and that this would be a violation of indigenous peoples' rights.
After the meeting on Friday, Amnesty called on the government to be more accommodating of indigenous Papuans in policy-making that affected them. "The central government appears to have not fulfilled its duties to protect and respect the rights of indigenous peoples in Papua," Amnesty executive director Usman Hamid said in a press statement. "In their plan for new administrative regions, for instance, policymakers neither listened to nor consulted with those who would be affected by the policy."
The Papuan representatives also voiced their concerns to the National Police and members of the House of Representatives. Human rights violations in Papua remain a sticking point for activists and indigenous communities, and a plan to redistrict the region has drawn criticism from both quarters. Security personnel have also been accused of using excessive force against demonstrators and residents of the region.
Last month, Amnesty International released a report on mining plans for the Wabu Block, a large gold ore deposit in Intan Jaya regency, whose exploitation, it believes, could exacerbate human rights issues in Papua.
The report noted an increased security presence in the regency since 2019, followed by at least eight cases of alleged arbitrary killings, with 12 deaths involving security forces, as well as arrests, beatings and increased restrictions on residents. Usman said the government must listen to the indigenous community and seek approval from those who would be affected by the mining plan.
He called for the project to be suspended until the government could provide residents with due diligence reports on its impacts. At a separate meeting on Friday, Amnesty presented its March report on the Wabu Block to Papua Governor Lukas Enembe, who welcomed the findings. "I have also sent a letter to the energy and mineral resources minister to temporarily stop the process of [issuing] mining permits in the Wabu Block region because the security situation in Intan Jaya is not conducive to it," he said.
The governor said he had expressed concerns to Jakarta over human rights violations and the neglect of indigenous communities but that few significant changes had followed.