05/26/2015, 00.00
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Widowo relaxes security measures in Papua, announces pardon for political prisoners

by Mathias Hariyadi
Journalists, especially foreign ones, will be able to visit Indonesia’s easternmost provinces, a decision initially opposed by the country’s military and police. The Indonesian president also expressed his intention to pardon political prisoners. However, most are refusing, calling instead for an amnesty.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – In a surprise move during a visit to Papua, a province rich in oil and minerals in the eastern part of the country, Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has decided to relax security measures for foreign journalists. In addition, he has offered a general pardon for all local political prisoners, who may soon be released.

President Widodo is currently on his first official visit to Papua and West Papua provinces. As part of his trip, he has relaxed security measures in the territory, a decision initially resisted by the Indonesian military and police.

Journalists, including foreign ones, will be allowed to visit and report from the provinces. Until now, the authorities exerted strict controls on media coverage in the territory.

National Security Minister Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno announced that the president was also considering a pardon for all Papuan political prisoners. The president “wants to free all of them,” the minister said.

However, to benefit from a presidential pardon political prisoners must admit to the crimes for which they were convicted, a condition few plan to accept. Most reject Widowo’s proposal.

According to Minister Purdijatno, most Papuan political prisoners want parliament to approve an amnesty bill.

For National Papua Solidarity, a pro-Papuan activist group, “Amnesty is the most effective option to gain the heart and mind of Papuans”.

In 2001, Indonesian authorities granted the area "special autonomy". However, it was never implemented and the indigenous people continue to denounce "unfair treatment."

The province was the scene of a military campaign under Sukarno before it was formally annexed in 1969 following a UN decision to grant the former Dutch colony in trusteeship to Indonesia.

Suharto’s dictatorial regime (1967-1998) and the massive invasion by foreign and Indonesian companies fuelled the emergence and growth of a Papua nationalist movement.

Former President Abdurrahman Wahid chose the area’s current names in 2002.

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