30 Nov 2011

Security forces increase presence in Papua for December 1st Anniversary

8:57 pm on 30 November 2011

Extra Indonesian security forces have been deployed to Papua region ahead of a significant Papuan anniversary.

December 1st this year is the 50th anniversary of the declaration of independence from Holland by West Papuans in 1961, a year before Indonesia invaded the territory.

With major celebrations planned to mark the date across Papua and West Papua provinces, there are fears of worsening conflict.

Johnny Blades reports:

There's been growing unrest and deadly violence over recent months in Papua.

Shootings of Papuans in both Highlands areas and urban centres have been linked to security forces as has violence around a major industrial dispute by striking workers against mining giant Freeport.

The Free West Papua OPM is occasionally blamed by officials for attacks but the separatist movement is poorly armed and fragmented.

However it's well documented that in October at the Third Papuan People's Congress, security forces served a violent crackdown on delegates after the declaration of an independent West Papuan state and the raising of the banned Morning Star Flag.

At least three deaths were reported.

Ferry Marisan of Papua's Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy says over fifty people were tortured by military and police during and after the congress.

Since then, raids and harassment of Papuans by security forces have surged.

"One month from October until now, the government of Indonesia sent many troops and also police to clear out the situation in West Papua right now because tomorrow (1st December) thousands of West Papuans will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the independence of West Papua."

The US-based West Papua Advocacy Team's Ed McWilliams says they're watching events closely.

And I know that there are some congressional officers also that are monitoring developments very, very closely - the concern being that we have seen indications of increased troop presence and specifically, dispatching of Kopassus forces to West Papua in advance of the December 1st Anniversary.

The chairman of the new unit to accelerate development in Papua, the UP4B, LtGen Bambang Darmono, says the role of the security is often misunderstood.

If we are talking about the violence in Papua, a lot of violence exists in Papua but the origin of source is not only from the security forces. Where else is it coming from? Sometimes there are conflicts between tribes. There are conflicts also among politicians. What happened in Puncak Jaya, it's an example, political conflict becomes violence.

The Indonesian Institute of Sciences' Muridan Widjojo says the cycle of violence is hampering development in Papua region and the military is the key factor.

Now in Jakarta we put more and more pressure on the central government to evaluate the policy of deploying soldiers to Papua. It becomes too excessive and it becomes the main problem of Papua now, and it creates a kind of political stalemate in Papua. And it has for so long undermined law and enforcement in Papua.

Previous celebrations of the Papuan anniversary have led to arrests of dozens of Papuans for treason, usually due to the raising of the Morning Star flag.