Catholic group urges new Indonesian army chief against Papua
A Catholic organization has joined with advocacy groups to call on Indonesia’s new army chief to change the way the military deals with problems in Papua with a more humanitarian approach.
Stefanus Asat Gusma, president of Catholic Youth, said he hoped General Andika Perkasa, who was sworn in by President Joko Widodo on November 17, would assess the military’s performance in Papua given the frequent clashes resulting in civilian and military casualties.
“The repeated violence causes more unrest and deprives Papuans of a sense of security,” he told UCA News on November 19.
Calls for a change of approach in handling the conflict in Papua have increased among advocacy organizations criticizing a policy of sending more troops to the region to deal with separatist rebels.
Activists said this brutal approach to rebels from the West Papua Liberation Army, an offshoot of the Free Papua Organization, sparked an escalation in violence that increasingly affected civilians.
According to the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence, there were 58 violent incidents involving soldiers and civilians between 2017 and 2021, mostly shootings, which killed 69 civilians and injured 135 others.
Every soldier who comes from outside Papua should also be provided with a full understanding of the anthropological aspects of the region.
Gusma said soldiers need to take a more humanitarian approach, including establishing better communication with tribal and community leaders.
“Every soldier who comes from outside Papua must also be provided with a full understanding of the anthropological aspects of the region,” he said.
Gusma, who was also newly elected as Catholic Youth leader on November 13, said his organization would continue to pay special attention to Papua.
He said the group had identified three fundamental issues in Papua, namely a crisis of confidence in the government, the pace of infrastructure development and the differences in perceptions of various social issues between Papua and Jakarta.
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General Perkasa, 56, who will only serve as army chief for a year because he is due to retire, has promised to assess the handling of the conflict in Papua.
“The approach I want to take is the same as in other areas [of Indonesia], the same as in Java and elsewhere, because the status of Papua is the same as in other regions, “he said.
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