TNI’s use of term OPM instead of armed criminal group won't solve Papua conflict

Source – April 16, 2024
Centra Initiative Management Board Chairperson Al Araf – Undated (Istimewa)

Dani Prabowo, Jakarta – The chairperson of Centra Initiative and Indonesian Human Rights Watch (Imparsial) senior researcher, Al Araf, says that the reuse of the term Free Papua Organisation or OPM will not solve the problems or the conflict in Papua.

"In fact, it will tends to have an impact on the stigmatisation of the people in Papua, and the tendency to use an approach of military operations in overcoming [the problems in Papua]", said Araf said when contacted on Tuesday April 16.

As has been reported, the TNI (Indonesian military) is prioritising territorial operations in Papua by inviting all parties to build and bring prosperity to the people of Papua.

The change of nomenclature from the original term Armed Criminal Group (KKB) to OPM, said Araf, tends to prioritise military operations. Araf added that solving the problems in Papua should prioritise a process of dialogue.

"It's time for a resolution of the conflict in Papua to be carried out in a peaceful way. All parties need to refrain themselves and maintain a ceasefire and step forward to the negotiating table", said Araf.

"A humanitarian pause is needed to resolve the Papua conflict to progress towards an equal space for dialogue", he said.

On Wednesday April 10 sub-district military command (Koramil) commander (Danramil) Aradide Infantry Second Lieutenant Oktovianus Sogalrey was shot dead by the West Papua National Liberation Army-Free Papua Movement (TPNPB-OPM) or KKB on the Trans Paniai-Intan Jaya road.

The TPNPB-OPM or KKB have claimed responsibility for the killing. Araf is concerned about an increase in fatalities because of the conflict in Papua.

"This situation should be a sign for the government that the resolution of the Papua conflict needs to use a new approach to resolve it. It's time to abandon the approach of excessive violence in Papua", he said.

Araf said the government sees the Papua issue from a top down perspective and not from a dialogical approach.

"In a conflict area the solution to resolving it should start from an agreement between the parties in the conflict, namely between the government and the Papuan side", said Araf.

Thus, he continued, the solution is a result of an understanding between two parties who are in conflict and there is a good possibility it could go the way of Aceh, referring to the 2005 peace agreement between the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the government.

"So far, the approach has been more on the aspect of the economy. While the issue of legal justice for the violence and human rights violations that have occurred has been ignored, and other issues", said Araf.

"So the solution is not comprehensive and not from a mutual agreement, but more top down. So the conflict is never resolved", he said.

Earlier, TNI commander General Agus Subiyanto said that they would no longer refer to armed groups that encourage independence in Papua as KKB.

"Because they themselves call themselves the TPNPB which is the same as the OPM", said Subiyanto during a press conference at the TNI commander's office in Menteng, Central Jakarta, on Wednesday August 10.

Subiyanto said that the OPM carries out terror and murders Papuan people and members of the TNI and Polri (national police). The OPM also rapes teachers and healthcare workers. Because of this therefore, the TNI will not remain silent.

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

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "TNI Kembali Pakai Istilah OPM, Pengamat: Cenderung Pakai Pendekatan Operasi Militer dalam Mengatasinya".]