15 Feb 2016

Indonesian lawmakers criticise govt over Papua

4:38 pm on 15 February 2016
Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi speaks to journalists at a press conference during the Democracy Forum VIII in Nusa Dua in 2015.

Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi. Photo: AFP

Indonesian lawmakers have criticised the government for lacking a unified approach in dealing with separatism in Papua region.

The Jakarta Post reports that the criticism came from members of the House of Representatives' Commission I, which oversees defense and foreign affairs.

They complained that the Foreign Ministry has not been doing enough to counter public relation campaigns conducted by separatist groups from Papua, which they said were slowly garnering support abroad.

The Democratic Party lawmaker Darizal Basir referred to the momentum being gained by the struggle for independence through the exiled Papuan activist Benny Wenda's global human rights-themed campaign.

Mr Wenda and other leading Papuan exiles have advanced the cause of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua which has been given membership at the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

However the Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi dismissed the allegation that separatist groups in Papua were gaining ground.

She says it's too early to say that Benny Wenda is the key independence leader, because the separatist groups remain fragmented.

The Commission I chairman Mahfudz Siddiq further berated the government for what he considered a failure to conduct damage control on the issue of Papuan separatism.

Mahfudz urged the Foreign Ministry to take the initiative in co-ordinating its public relations campaign with other government agencies.

Mahfudz said the ministry could work with the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) to broker a deal that would allow members of separatist groups to give up their cause.

In January, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo instructed his cabinet to prioritize a soft approach in handling separatism, over the hard approach that involves force and firearms.

Separately, international relations analyst Adriana Elisabeth of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences warned the government against underestimating the conflict in Papua.

She told the Post that this problem has been brewing for years, so the President should make a point of opening up dialogue with Papuans.