Rights activists including a Catholic priest have supported a crackdown against officials accused of corruption in Indonesia's Christian-majority Papua province while critics termed the purge politically motivated.
Over the past week, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) of Indonesia has arrested three high-ranking government officials including a governor in the easternmost province.
In the latest case, Papua governor Lukas Enembe was detained on Sept. 14. Enembe, who served the post since 2013, is accused of receiving bribes and gratuities in the procurement of goods and services sourced from the Papua province budget.
On Sept. 8, the commission named two district heads – Eltinus Omaleng of Mimika and Ham Pagawak of Central Mamberamo – as suspects in corruption and bribery cases.
"I fully support the commission's steps, considering that so far Papua has often been mentioned as a breeding ground for corrupt practices, but this is the first time the government has shown a firm stance," said Father Bernard Baru, chairman of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Augustinian Order in Papua.
Father Baru said that the KPK should not just finish its duties by naming the corrupt officials.
"They certainly don't move on their own. I suspect that there are parties who conspire with them, from the local level to the central government in Jakarta. I also hope that they can speak openly when they go to trial regarding other parties involved," he told UCA News.
Emanuel Gobay, a Catholic and chairman of the Papua Legal Aid Institute, said that the three cases do not necessarily describe the overall corruption scenario in Papua.
Therefore, he called for "investigations of corruption cases to be carried out in all regencies and cities in Papua."
Meanwhile, some residents in Papua alleged the anti-corruption crackdown was a politically charged move, linking it to pro-independence aspirations in the eastern tip of the region.
Local media reported that Enembe's supporters staged protests in the provincial capital of Jayapura against his arrest, calling it a case of political vendetta.
However, Father Baru said, while the alleged corruption had preliminary evidence, the KPK's move "should have been supported."
"These officials are indigenous Papuans and their actions certainly have an impact on their fellow Papuans. It is the Papuan people themselves who are victims of their alleged crimes," he said.
Activist Gobay said that in order to reduce suspicion from Papuans, the KPK needed to provide a full explanation regarding the reasons for the detention of the suspects.
At a press conference in Jakarta, Alexander Marwata, KPK's deputy chairman emphasized that they had not yet criminalized Enembe and other officials.
"We carry out law enforcement, of course, based on the adequacy of evidence, through the clarification of witnesses and also documents, so that we believe that a criminal process has taken place," he said.
He also asked for the support of the Papuan people in the legal process against the suspects in Papua and mentioned that trillions of rupiah from the central government have been channeled into Special Autonomy funds for the welfare of the Papuan people.
"If the corrupt practice continues, we are worried that the government's efforts to improve the welfare of the Papuan people will not materialize," he said.
Since the implementation of the special autonomy policy for the provinces of Papua and West Papua in 2002, the government has disbursed funds worth 138.65 trillion rupiah until last year.
However, according to the Integrity Assessment Survey by the KPK last year on government performance, the two provinces in Papua had the lowest index and were categorized as very vulnerable to corruption, which was 64, below the national average of 72.
The Human Development Index in Papua is also the lowest nationally, where for Papua Province it is 60.62, below the national average of 72.29.
Indonesia was ranked 96th out of a total of 180 countries in the global Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 by anti-graft watchdog Transparency International.