05/03/2021, 13.10
INDONESIA
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Papua separatists 'are not terrorists': local and Church officials against government

by Mathias Hariyadi

Local political officials and Catholic leaders are seriously concerned that Jakarta's hard-line approach will not produce positive results nor solve the problem in the short term. For the governor, it will have a negative economic, social and political impact. Fr Marthen Kuayo calls for dialogue and everyone’s commitment.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Political officials and Catholic leaders in the Diocese of Timika (Papua province) have expressed serious reservations about the decision of the Indonesian government to label armed Papuan separatist movements as “terrorist groups“.

Papua Governor Lukas Enembe is one of them; so is diocesan administrator Fr Marthen Kuayo Pr. In their view, the government’s hard-line approach to violence, which affects separatist militants, security forces and civilians, is not likely to produce positive results and will not solve the problem in the short term.

In a statement, Governor Enembe explains that Jakarta's move will have a negative impact on the remote region, “economically, socially and politically”. It would be “wiser”, for the Indonesian military (TNI) and police forces (POLRI) to begin “with mapping these groups, their characteristics, hiding places and organisation”.

Many times in the past, he noted, the military and the police were responsible for “friendly fire” that hit civilians, accused of “complicity” with rebel and separatist movements, like Rufinus Tigau, who was wrongfully shot to death on 20 October 2020 by Indonesian soldiers.

The young catechist, 28, was the only who know the traditions and language of local Papuan Catholics since the only two priests are not native to the area. He was killed during a military operation, the third Christian leader to die over a period of a few months.

The local Church asked the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to shed full light on the matter. Likewise, to contain the violence, Governor Enembe also called for UN intervention.

He also put forward a seven-point, asking the government to take a step back from its current course of action. One of the reasons is the fact that pinning the terrorist label on separatist groups will fuel “psycho-social problems” in the area.

The central government and parliament should reconsider the existing policy. In Papua local authorities remain committed to the country's goal of unity, and condemn the use of force to settle disputes, the governor added.

In a press release, Fr Marthen Kuayo renewed the call for “dialogue and armistice” which he considers “essential” to resolve the issue. Speaking to AsiaNews, he reiterated his concern for the escalation of violence and the “collateral damage” that is being increasingly caused on civilians forced to flee to safer places.

“Several people have been killed by both security forces and separatist groups,” he explained. Meanwhile, “The security situation is deteriorating”. The military intervention “needs to be seriously reassessed” because it ends up “fuelling violence even more. We need everyone's commitment,” he warns, “for a return to normality”.

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