In wake of measles epidemic lawmakers, military discuss how to counter fake news on Papua

Source – January 29, 2018
Rayacudu and Tjahjanto chat before meeting with Commission I - January 29, 2018 (Antara)

M. Ahsan Ridhoi – A working committee meeting on January 29 between the House of Representatives (DPR) Commission I, TNI (Indonesian military) chief Air Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto and Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu has discussed the issue of Papuan independence.

Commission I deputy chairperson Hanafi Rais from the National Mandate Party (PAN) said that one of the things discussed was preventing the Free Papua Movement (OPM) from rallying support from the international community.

“Our position is that we want the government, specifically the defense minister and the TNI chief to pay serious and ongoing attention to this. Not just based on particular cases, but continuous and ongoing”, said Rais at the DPR complex in Senayan, Central Jakarta on Monday.

During the meeting, according to Rais, Commission I expressed its appreciation to the TNI for providing immediate assistance to Papua during the recent measles epidemic. According to Rais, this is one of the ways to prevent separatism in Papua.

According to Rais, the measles epidemic represents a non-traditional threat to Indonesia’s sovereignty which can be taken advantage of by the OPM and pro-independence groups to portray the Indonesian government in a bad light.

“So, of course in confronting non-traditional threats such as this we consider the steps taken by the TNI to have been quite effective. Because they poured in lots of direct humanitarian aid, healthcare, military resources and healthcare workers”, said Rais.

In addition to this, according to Rais, the TNI chief, defense minister and Commission I also discussed how to counter overseas support for the free Papua movement, particularly from South-Pacific countries, New Zealand, Australia and the United Nations.

“We in the DPR urge the government to use smart power. We can’t just use soft power or just defense, and we can’t just rely on hard power because this involves the physical use of troops, we must use smart power”, said Rais.

The smart power referred to by Rais is countering fake news (hoax) about Papua that is often spread by pro-free Papua groups to paint the Indonesian government in a negative light.

Related to this, Ryacudu stated his strong objection to the involvement of other countries in the Papua issue.

“In the past I’ve spoken in Australia, to Australia, to the Solomon Islands, I have never meddled in or interfered with the affairs of other countries. If other countries want to interfere in my country, I don’t want that. That’s what I say. I won’t compromise on this”, said Ryacudu at the DPR complex on Monday.

The working meeting also discussed other issues including revisions to the anti-terrorism law, particularly the involvement of the TNI in combating terrorism.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was Raker Komisi I, Menhan dan Panglima TNI Bahas Papua Merdeka.]