Separatists in Papua will be incapacitated: Yudhoyono

Kompas – August 26, 2003
Security Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (Okezone)
Security Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (Okezone)

Jakarta, Kompas -- The Indonesian government has cited the armed separatist movement in Papua as one of three threats against the perpetuation of the nation’s existence within the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI). Therefore the government will soon [take action to] incapacitate the separatist movement in the province of Papua, or where ever such movements exist.

This issue was raised by the Coordinating Minister for Politics and Security, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, when presenting greetings during the opening of the First National Conference of the Siliwangi Fighters Foundation in Jakarta on Monday (25/8).

“We will not allow the loss of a single inch of our territorial soil from the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia. Because NKRI is final. There is no room for armed separatist movements in Indonesia, either in Aceh or Papua”, he explained.

What Yudhoyono was explaining reiterated what had earlier been emphasised by Vice-president Hamzah Haz who was also present to officiate over national conference. Attending the national conference were around one hundred freedom fighters from the period 1945-1949 [the national independence struggle against the Dutch].

“There is to be no more independence in the territory of NKRI. Therefore, armed separatist movements where ever they may be must be incapacitated. Along with the endeavour to incapacitate armed separatist movements in regions of conflict, justice, prosperity and the people’s self-esteem areas of conflict must also be restored”, explained Yudhoyono.

Poor national integration

Aside from the armed separatist movement is Aceh and Papua, the two other issues which represent a serious threat to perpetuation of nation’s existence within NKRI are poor national integration and the upsurge of terrorist acts of which Indonesia has now become a target.

“Terrorism is a crime which is takes no account of humanity and can be carried out by anyone, by groups anywhere and at any time. Terrorism can consume anyone. Including those who know absolutely nothing about the issues. In facing these three threats, the TNI [Indonesian armed forces], police and society need to work hard and work together”, explained Yudhoyono.

With regard to these three threats, Yudhoyono gave thanks to the freedom fighters and reminded the young generation to continue to fertilize nationalism and patriotism as one of the solutions against these threats. “The continuity of a historical process which has been long and full of struggle is one we must safeguard and maintain so that the younger generation do not deviate or go astray”, he said.

Don’t force nationalism

Looking at what has developed in Aceh and Papua in relation to the armed separatist movement in the two provinces, the westernmost and easternmost provinces of Indonesia, the chairperson of the Solidarity Movement for the People of Aceh (Solidaritas Gerakan Rakyat untuk Aceh, SEGERA), Yusuf Lakaseng, and the head of the Central Organisational Committee of the Acehnese Peoples Democratic Resistance Front (Front Perlawanan Demokratik Rakyat Aceh, FPDRA) Thamrin Ananda, emphasised that feelings of nationalism and patriotism cannot be implanted forcibly.

“The history of our nation shows that unity grows because of consciousness and volunteerism. The government must look again at this history. Repressive actions though violence are counterproductive to the growth of nationalism in societies in regions of conflict”, said Yusuf.

“Efforts to win the hearts and minds of the people, both in Aceh and in Papua, must be carried out though democratic means and without pressure or intimidation. Conceptually speaking, the methods taken by the government in the integrated operation [in Aceh] are correct. But in its implementation, what has come to the fore is only the security operation”, said Thamrin, who admitted he fled Aceh because he had been included in the security forces’ wanted persons list.

Looking at the repressive approach which continues to be used by the emergency military command in Aceh, in the short term it has produced demonstrations of nationalism among the Acehnese people, Thamrin [explained saying he had] witnessed a loyalty pledge by thousands of Acehnese people to NKRI in the lead-up to the 58th independence day celebrations [on August 17].

“What is being done at the moment by the emergency military command in Aceh, was also carried when Aceh was designated as a military operations area (DOM)(1). We worry that when the implementation of the military emergency has been completed, the loyalty pledges taken by the people under pressure will fade and boomerang back on Indonesia”, explained Thamrin.

Meanwhile, Kompas’ records [show that] the government’s own policy on the Papua or Irian Jaya problem are still unclear. In 1999, during the era of the government of President B.J. Habibie, the government together with the People’s Consultative Assembly (DPR) issued Law Number 45/1999 on the Formation of the Provinces of West Irian Jaya, Central Irian Jaya and East Irian Jaya, the Regencies of Puncak Jaya, Mimika, Paniai and the Sorong Municipality. This represented a policy which provided the legal basis for the separation of the Irian Jaya province into three provinces along with three new regencies.

Before the law could be implemented however, in 2001 the government together with the DPR reissued Law Number 21/2001 on Special Autonomy for the Province of Papua. This policy was issued by the government together with the DPR during the ear of the administration of President Abdurrahman Wahid.

Just in terms of the province’s name, the two laws use to different names for the same region, that is Irian Jaya and Papua.

Another issue which has emerged is that in Law Number 21/2001 it says that the separation of the territory of the Papua province will be carried out with the agreement of the Papua People’s Council (MRP) and the Papuan Regional Representative Assembly (DPRP) [which is yet to be formed].

If the two laws are to be reconciled, the division of the territory which is mandated by Law Number 45/1999 must be implemented though procedures in Law Number 21/2002.

In fact President Megawati Sukarnoputri, through Presidential Instruction Number 1/2003, has already stipulated an acceleration of the implementation of Law Number 45/2003 in directing the separation of Irian Jaya into three provinces, two regencies along with one new municipal district.

What is then problematic is that the different group’s interests in Irian Jaya or Papua, all are dependent on laws made by the government, whether it be Law Number 45/2003 or Law Number 21/2003. As a consequence, what is then referred to as a separatist movement is a movement which is also dependent on official laws. (INU)


1. One of the grievances fueling the rebellion in Aceh is the secret war waged against the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) in the 1990s under the Suharto military dictatorship, which lasted from 1965 to 1998. From May 1990 to August 1998, Aceh was declared a Military Operations Area, during which the military carried out extensive counterinsurgency operations against the GAM. In this period, thousands of civilians were killed, disappeared or tortured.

[Translated by James Balowski.]