Labeling Papua armed groups terrorist 'Jokowi's worst policy yet on Papua'

Merdeka – April 29, 2021
Setara Institute chairperson Hendardi speaking in Jakarta – Undated (CNN)

Yunita Amalia – Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy Chairperson Hendardi has criticised the government's move to label armed criminal groups (KKB) in Papua as terrorists. The move is seen as a short-cut and an expression of the government's desperation in dealing with the conflict in Papua.

"It's an expression of the government's desperation which has never been able to deal with Papuan resistance groups", said Hendardi on Thursday April 29.

Hendardi is of the view that labeling Papua armed groups as terrorist clearly shows that the government is narrowing the space for dialogue between Jakarta and Papua and is instead intensifying attempts to control the conflict through armed force.

The government's move, according to Hendardi, has the potential to give rise to serious human rights violations in Papua. Because with the terrorist label, this will be used as a pretext by the security forces to use armed violence to resolve the conflict.

"The labeling of resistance groups in Papua will [not] break the long and recurring cycle of violence", he said.

Hendardi said that the failure of security forces to cripple armed groups in Papua has largely been caused by the lack of support and trust by local people. This is in addition to the key obstacle of the geographic conditions and these groups acquaintance with mountainous areas.

"The terrorist label and the subsequent [military] operations is Jokowi's [President Joko Widodo] worst ever policy on Papua", he asserted.

Earlier, Coordinating Minister for Security, Politics and Legal Affairs Mahfud MD declared the activities by and criminal groups in Papua as being included in the list of terrorist organisations. The labeling of armed groups and all organisations affiliated with them was based on a series of brutal killings and violence.

Mahfud stated that categorising armed groups and their affiliated organisations as terrorist is in accordance with Law Number 5/2018 on the Eradication of Terrorism.

"So we will declare any and all violence which satisfies the elements of Law Number 5/2018 as a terrorist movement and we will soon process them as a terrorist movement which is recorded under a legal agenda", said Mahfud during a press conference at the Coordinating Ministry for Security, Politics and Legal Affairs on Thursday.

Based on this, Mahfud stated that the government will act against all forms of violence in the land of Papua in accordance with the procedures for dealing with terrorism.

One of the important things conveyed by Mahfud during the press conference was that in combating terrorism the security forces are prohibited from harming civilians.

"The government has asked the Polri [Indonesian police], the TNI [Indonesian military], the BIN [the National Intelligence Agency] and related agencies to immediately take rapid, firm and measured actions. According to the law this means not targeting civilians", he said.

The intensity of violence and killings in Papua has risen recently. The police's Nemangkawi Task Force (named after the Nemangkawi mountains) claims that nine armed criminal group members were killed in an exchange of fire in the vicinity of the armed group's headquarters in Olenski, North Ilaga district, Puncak regency, Papua.

"It is indeed true that based on reports received nine KKB members were killed in an exchange of fire", said Nemangkawi Task Force spokesperson Senior Commissioner Iqbal Al Qupdusy in Jayapura on Wednesday April 28. (rhm)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Pelabelan Teroris ke KKB Papua Dianggap Bentuk Putus Asa Pemerintah".]