Amnesty urges government to explain policy after TNI reverts to using OPM term again

Source – April 30, 2024
West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) fighters – Undated (Polda Papua)

Icha Rastika, Jakarta – Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid is of the view that the change in the nomenclature used for Armed Criminal Groups (KKB) in Papua to the Free Papua Organization (OPM) could have a positive impact.

"It could be positive if it's intended to recognise the existence of a Papua independence organisation and abandon the negative stigma about criminal groups and terrorist groups", said Hamid following a discussion at the Salemba Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI) office in Central Jakarta on Monday April 29.

The problem is however, said Hamid, the change in nomenclature is only within the TNI (Indonesian military) and is not a government policy. And the change in terminology originated from a telegram from TNI commander General Agus Subiyanto.

"The letter was actually confidential, in other words not for general consumption. And if for example it is now circulating in the mass media, of course it needs further explanation about why the TNI Commander restored the OPM nomenclature and abandoned the terms KKB and KST [Separatist Terrorist Group]", said Hamid.

Therefore Amnesty is urging the government to provide an explanation after the TNI started using the term OPM again.

"The government needs to provide an explanation. Is it true that the change in nomenclature is government's policy. If it is only within the TNI environment, then what is the government's policy?", said Hamid.

On the other hand however, the change in nomenclature could have a negative meaning.

"It could be negative if it is used for the labelisation of Papuans. Every time there is a protest [over] land, plantations, mines, then they're labeled OPM, it could be negative", said Hamid.

Earlier, General Subiyanto said that his staff no longer called armed groups that encouraged Papuan independence KKB.

"Because they themselves call themselves the TPNPB (West Papua National Liberation Army) so it's the same as the OPM", said Subiyanto during a press conference at the TNI Commander's office in Menteng, Central Jakarta, on Wednesday April 10.

Subiyanto said the OPM has been committing terror and murder of community members and TNI and Polri (Indonesian police) personnel. The OPM also rapes teachers and health workers. Therefore, the TNI will not remain silent.

"I will act firmly against what is being done by the OPM. There is no country within in a country", said Subiyanto.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Amnesty Dorong Pemerintah Jelaskan Perubahan Istilah KKB Jadi OPM".]