Papua Questions Must Be Answered for the Sake of Security

Tensions in Papua erupted again recently following the fatal shooting which killed at least four people and injured more than 20. The military and the National Police are involved in a “diplomatic spat” as to who is responsible for the incidents faced with calls for a fact finding team to investigate the case.

By Bantarto Bandoro on 12:02 am Dec 17, 2014

Tensions in Papua erupted again recently following the fatal shooting which killed at least four people and injured more than 20. The military and the National Police are involved in a “diplomatic spat” as to who is responsible for the incidents faced with calls for a fact finding team to investigate the case.

National Police chief Gen. Sutarman has said police are not responsible for the deadly shooting by security forces. While Gen. Moeldoko, chief of the Indonesian Military (TNI), said the investigation would be left to police, but declined to comment on reports soldiers had opened fire on demonstrators.

The TNI chief was reported as saying that there had been gunfire not only from the ground, but also from above — a statement repeated by Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno, coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs.

There has been no clear signal that the TNI and the National Police are on the same side, at least as of now, to begin investigating what has been described as the “permanent turbulence” in Papua.

What we know from the outset is President Joko Widodo’s election pledge to resolve prolonged tensions between civilians and security forces in the restive province where armed separatists have launched small-scale insurgencies since Indonesia annexed Papua in 1969.

The recent fatal shooting can be seen as the latest of the prolonged tension.

Failure to properly investigate the incident will erode chances of peace, security and stability in the resource rich region.

Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno was quick to step in, saying the public should not draw premature conclusions or blame security forces.

Tedjo’s comment is a classic statement from a government official, as if he is trying to avoid giving the impression that the security forces is in any way responsible for the incident.
The death of four people would not have been possible if it was not for the firing of live bullets from the security forces, whether that be the TNI or the police.

Primary cause
Separatism, if this is indeed the Papuans’ primary cause, remains of concern for the Indonesian government when tensions occasionally spill over in to low-level violence involving security forces.

A small and poorly equipped group known as the Free Papuan Movement (Gerakan Papua Merdeka) has continued to fight for independence since the region was incorporated into Indonesia.

To retain full control of the province’s substantial mineral wealth, the government in Jakarta has maintained a hard-line stance, carrying out periodic security crackdowns in the province aimed particularly at wiping out, perhaps for good, the separatist sentiment.

Regardless of how the Papuan issue is to be categorized — whether it be separatism, economic development or human rights — human right groups continue to perceive the problem from the aspect of government inability, if not lack of political will, to address the issue properly.

They feared that the incident may lead to the increasing military presence in Indonesia’s easternmost region and this may led to an era of renewed violence.

Now, it is up to the government in Jakarta to define and categorize the problem.

Papua is a complex and multi-dimensional regional issue where the causes of the issue cannot be seen in isolation from one another.

Such a line of thinking can also be applied to the way the governmental deals with Papua.

Many tend to see Papua as solely a political issue, while others strongly believed it is a mix of political, social, economic and security issues.

This suggests that unless a comprehensive negotiated political settlement is reached, the Papua question will continue to pose an internal security problem for Indonesia.

National security encompasses a wide spectrum where each aspect of security must be supported and reinforced by each other.

If one is to see Papua from a such an angle, then it is not wrong to believe that Papua, with all of its attributes, is a national security issue specifically — which in turn justifies security forces, either the TNI or the National Police (if not both), to act to protect the essential elements of national security.

According to international affairs professor Robert Jervis, national security is the primacy of the security of the state and its sovereignty, while philosopher John Locke thought security is best focused on territorial integrity and on the lives, liberties and property of citizens.

Human rights groups in the region tend to adhere to Locke’s reasoning when they protest the policy of the security forces, which is not necessarily wrong.

But since Papua carries the highest political and security risk in Indonesia, the actions of either the military or national police in cracking down what they perceive as destructive movement against national security is well suited to the state.

It is what the realists seem to favor, rather than a minimalist state where the rights and liberties of the citizens are prioritized over the national interests.

Security threats coming from non-state actors should not be ignored by the state security apparatus, if such a threat is to cause a nation’s long-term insecurity.

In order for the voices of the human right groups to be well heard, well received and supported by the state — and so they are not to be perceived as consistently contrary to the government — perhaps it is not an exaggeration for them to also air the idea of liberalist perspective of national security.

That is, national security is secured when there is cooperation and interdependence among the military and national police to protect the region of Papua.

The military and the national police have acted according to their respective laws. But when it comes to addressing the Papuan question, collective security or cooperative security may be the best method  to jointly and effectively deal with the Papuan question.

This would help to avoid the possibility of further “diplomatic spats” between the military and the police.

In short, the Papuan question is a security as well as specifically a political issue.

It is therefore important for President Joko’s government to adopt approaches that have never been tested in the past.

He should have the expertise and sense to effectively refocus the military and the national police to be aware of the importance of sustaining security in Papua through some kind of regular, systematic and synchronized joint patrol in the area.

If tensions are to remain high in Papua and thus jeopardize the security of the entire state, it is the responsibility of the military and national police to address the problem efficiently.

The core of the Papua question is security, which carries itself a combination of political, social and economic elements.

Bantarto Bandoro is senior lecturer at the Indonesian Defense University’s School of Defense Strategy, in Sentul, Bogor