Designating OPM as terrorists will only increase tensions, rights abuses: Activists

KBR – March 25, 2021
West Papuan armed fighters stand in front of Morning Star flag – Undated (Okezone)

Arjuna Pademme, Jayapura – The government appears to be at a loss as to how to quell the struggle by the Free Papua Organisation or OPM with its plan to designate Papua independence organisations as terrorist groups.

Democracy Alliance for Papua (ADP) Director Latifah Anum Siregar says that the Counter Terrorism Agency (BNPT) should look again at applying the Anti-Terrorism Law lest the government make a decision which will instead add to tensions in Papua.

"Actually, I think, sorry yeah but perhaps the government is at a loss as to how to handle the TPN [the National Liberation Army] and the OPM. It's not certain this will bring things under control, it's not certain that it will make the situation better. So I think that the government has to be more careful in looking at this. If the government gives them this definition, it will increase tensions, right", said Siregar on Thursday March 25.

Siregar says that there are contradictions in the Anti-Terrorism Law itself. For example, Article 5 reads, "Terrorist crimes regulated under this law must be considered not to be political crimes". Meanwhile what the OPM is doing is fighting for independence politically, not through terrorism.

Speaking in a similar vein, Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid also opposes the discourse being promoted by BNPT chief Boy Rafli Amar. According to Hamid, this will not stop human rights violations in Papua.

"Classifying armed groups which are affiliated with the OPM as terrorist organisations will not end the human rights violations being suffered by the Papuan people. Many of these [violations] are being committed by state security forces, it would be better to continue with a legal approach", said Hamid in a press release on March 23.

Hamid is also concerned that giving such groups the "terrorist" label will be used as a pretext to further restrict Papuan's freedom of expression and assembly through the Anti-Terrorism Law.

Earlier, BNPT chief Boy Rafli Amar said that they will hold discussions with ministries and other agencies on the nomenclature of armed criminal groups (KKB) in Papua. According to Amar, it is reasonable to categorise the activities of these groups as terrorist acts.

"Whether or not they can be categorised as a terrorist organisation because earlier it was conveyed that it is actually appropriate for the KKB's crimes to be categorised as or to be on par with terrorist acts", said Amar during a hearing with the House of Representatives (DPR) on March 22.

Amar also said that aside from ministries and other agencies, the BNPT will be holding discussions with the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) and DPR representatives. According to Amar, the discussions will be held to reach an objective understanding about these groups.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Wacana OPM Masuk Kategori Teroris, Aktivis: Akan Meningkatkan Ketegangan".]