New approach in Papua – Editorial
Editorial Board (The Jakarta Post)
Mon 7 February 2022
Recently appointed Commander of the Indonesian Army (TNI), General Andika Perkasa has caught the public eye with his plan to change the way the institution deals with longstanding separatism in Papua. He says the TNI will treat Papua like other provinces in the country, as territorial operations will manifest as civic action programs.
According to the army’s new chief of staff, General Dudung Abdurachman, the army will emphasize “love and affection”, a stark contrast to the use of force that has characterized since decades the presence of the TNI in the easternmost part of the country.
Such statements imply that both generals have accepted that the militaristic approach will not address Papua’s resentment towards Jakarta. The fact that they understand the problem does not necessarily mean that TNI operations in Papua will change drastically, but we can hope that the military will at least be more willing to work with other elements of society and the government to resolve the complex issues facing Papuans. people.
Andika aims to reverse the current troop deployment, which human rights activists say has turned Papua into “a war zone”. Civil society, religious leaders and other prominent figures in Papua have repeatedly asserted that the militaristic approach will not be able to end the decades-long conflict in this resource-rich territory, but they say the dialogue would.
Andika said the new paradigm would implement the instructions of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo as supreme commander of the TNI. The army chain of command, from the provincial military command (Kodam) to the lowest unit, as well as the air force and navy structures in Papua and West Papua, will return to their functions. of origin as defined in the TNI procedure.
The TNI must prepare a long-term strategy to deal with threats to the country’s territorial integrity that will persist despite the new approach. The most important mission for the army is to win the hearts and minds of Papuans.
On Sunday, an army soldier was injured after an armed group attacked a military post in the remote village of Titigi, in the regency of Intan Jaya. A week earlier, three army soldiers were shot dead in the village of Jenggernok, in the regency of Puncak.
Dudung said that if the hunt for separatist groups continues, soldiers should treat all Papuans, even armed separatist groups, with more empathy as they were all Indonesian citizens. The statement quickly sparked controversy, with critics saying Dudung condoned criminals who had killed TNI soldiers and civilians.
Obviously, both generals are aware that the use of force should only be a last resort. They intend to promote the use of soft power rather than hard power, the latter having proven unable to end hostilities in Papua.
Despite massive infrastructure projects and the huge amount of special self-reliance funds granted to Papua, many residents believe that Jakarta has abused their basic human rights and unfairly extracted their natural resources for decades. They have been left far behind the rest of the nation and are treated like second class citizens. Repeated examples of racist behavior, both individual and institutional, have only increased the alienation of Papuans.
For these reasons, we welcome the vision of the two generals, who opt for a more humanitarian approach in Papua. Let’s give Andika and Dudung a chance to fulfill their promises.