TPNPB-OPM asks Jokowi to reevaluate terrorist label following Komnas HAM meet

Suara Papaua – June 27, 2021
Frits Ramandey pictured with TPNPB-OPM leader Damianus Magai Yogi in Paniai – June 24, 2021 (SP)

Stevanus Yogi, Paniai – The West Papua National Liberation Army-Free Papua Organisation (TPNPB-OPM) is asking President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and his government to reexamine the TPNPB-OPM's line of march which it has been pursuing since it was formed in 1965 until now.

This was conveyed by the supreme commander of the TPNPB-OPM's Paniai Defense Command Area (Kodap) IV in the Meepago customary territory, Damianus Magai Yogi. in response to the government's labeling the group as terrorists

He made the remarks after holding a dialogue at the TPNPB-OPM's headquarters in Paniai with Frits Ramandey, the head of the National Human Rights Commission's (Komnas HAM) Papua representative office on Thursday June 24.

"This is clearly very wrong. The TPNPB-OPM were born out of what, what was the struggle by our parents which we continue to this day, if you don't know, the state should study our history properly so it doesn't give us arbitrary labels such as terrorists", he said.

Yogi said that their struggle is clear, namely defending West Papua's national independence on December 1, 1961, which was declared again on July 1, 1971 with the reading out of the proclamation of independence.

"Our enemy is also clear, namely resisting the Indonesian military, the TNI and the Indonesian police. So what is it about us that's unclear. We are combatants. Everything about us is clear. We are fighting on the basis of a historical truth, not some kind of story or artificial pretense", he asserted.

The labeling of armed groups in Papua as terrorists, according to Yogi, should have been studied first by trusted independent institutions. This is in order to prove whether the struggle they are conducting can be categorised as terrorism or not.

But because this was not done and because of arbitrary actions and accusations, it just shows the Indonesian state's ineptitude in fighting the TPNPB.

"And on the issue of labeling us all kinds of things, this is not new, it's being going on for some time, KKB [armed criminal groups], KSB [armed separatist groups] and now terrorists. Essentially whatever label we're given, we're not concerned about it, we will continue fighting until Papua is independent", he asserted.

When asked when they will act clearly and openly against the Indonesian military, Yogi said that they are following the mechanisms of international war.

"We have our own strategy. Essentially we follow international mechanisms. A clear time fame exists", he answered briefly to Suara Papua's question.

Frits Ramandey took the opportunity to say that what was conveyed to him about the terrorist label will be passed on to President Widodo, the Indonesian police chief (Kapolri) and the TNI commander (panglima TNI) in Jakarta.

"I have listened personally and I support your statement. Because it is indeed true that it is wrong to try and resolve the Papua problem with the TPNPB-OPM though an approach of disarmament [sic] or violence. Therefore I will pass on what you have asked (the removal of the terrorist label) to the president, Kapolri and panglima TNI", said Ramandey speaking in front of Yogi.

In accordance with President Widodo's commitment through his recent instruction that the Papua conflict cannot be resolved with arms, rather that it must be through dialogue, Ramandey hopes that what has been conveyed by Yogi will be heard and get a response.

"This means that we at Komnas HAM believe the president wants to revoke the terrorist label. And we at Komnas HAM also disagree with this label. So we very much hope that in relation to this, what has been asked for by the Paniai TPNPB commander will be welcomed", Ramandey told Suara Papua.

Komnas HAM's aim in conducting the visit to the TPNPB headquarters was to hear directly what the TPNPB-OPM in the Meepago area wants to convey to the head of state in relation to the terrorist label and also dialogue.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Ditemui Komnas HAM Soal Label Teroris, Ini Tanggapan Panglima TPNPB Paniai".]