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OpinionTouring Indonesia Harmoni

What is the Strategy for Solving Problems in Papua?

A friend of mine who is currently on duty in West Papua asked how the strategy for solving the Papua problem was. When Touring Indonesia Harmoni by motorbike from Aceh to Papua, I only had time to set foot in Sorong, then Merauke headed to Boven Digoel. Suppose I am asked how to solve it. The answer is  I do not know exactly.

However, three provinces have expressed a desire to separate from Indonesia, namely Aceh, East Timor, and Papua. A popular opinion poll resolved the issue of East Timor to determine the position of the people in the province whether they would separate or join Indonesia. As a result, most of the people of East Timor chose to separate from Indonesia in 1999. At that time, international parties were present to oversee the entire process of determining the attitude of the people of East Timor.

As for Aceh, the issue was resolved at the negotiating table on August 15, 2005, precisely a few months after the Tsunami hit the province. Now Aceh is still in the corridor of the Republic of Indonesia. International involvement was present in Helsinki and in Aceh to supervise the peace process.

What about Papua?

The guerrilla war between the separatist groups and the Indonesian security forces is still ongoing. The Indonesian government also carried out a strategy used for Aceh, but to no avail, namely labeling the separatist group as a terrorist group. The government has also won the hearts of the Papuan people by disbursing funds and providing vast space for the younger generation of Papua to “change” their region in the future, but this has not yielded satisfactory results. Some members of the OPM have also done what groups in Aceh and East Timor did, namely internationalizing the case of Papua abroad, but until now, there has been no active response from countries that have an interest in Papua.

One military official told me that there are many tribes and languages in Papua that may be a bit difficult to understand between them. The problems faced by the Papuan people are also very complex, namely how the modernization that occurs in their area does not destroy the forests and mountains in the Papuan hometowns.

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Likewise, the presence of Freeport has also more or less attracted the attention of foreign countries to the island of Papua. At the end of 2018, the Indonesian government officially owned a 51 percent stake in the mining business ownership in Papua. In fact, in the Freeport area also often happens gunfire.

The strategy to divide Papua has also been carried out, namely Papua and West Papua. Even when I was in Merauke, the issue of the division of South Papua became a reality in the next few years. The last test for Papua is when it successfully implements PON in several cities in Papua. The former Merauke Danrem,

Brigjen TNI Bangun Nawoko, said that he was earnest in handling the implementation of PON in his territory. He even guarantees the security of his area. Therefore, there will be no disturbance during the implementation of the PON in Papua in 2021. When having dinner with the Merauke Police Chief, AKBP Untung Sangaji, also said that he was very busy with the PON because several contingents still considered Papua to be unsafe.

Gunfights in Papua are rare in urban areas, but in mountainous areas, there are houses and other public facilities (schools, health centers, houses of worship). Therefore, the security forces must pursue the separatist group in the separatist group’s area to better understand the “situation” of the area where the firefights are occurred.

Therefore, I want to convey some points that might be a strategy to solve the Papua problem. The humanitarian approach cannot be carried out if it is not accompanied by a comprehensive mapping of the local culture of the Papuan people. The point is that the community mapping pattern that prioritizes modernization will not strengthen the local community’s sense of nationalism and hate of separatist groups.

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More firmly, a comprehensive strategy is needed to improve the mapping of the cultural area of the Papuan people, not to be conquered by the emergence of companies that will seize their ancestral lands, but to help them improve their quality of life in their way of thinking.

When the United States government wanted to solve the Iraq problem after the war, the issue of ethnicity and culture became important. Therefore, local knowledge of local people’s way of thinking is essential. The question is, is the presence of the Indonesian government among the Papuan people create conflict among the Papuan people or change the condition of the people here for the better?

The presence of the Trans Papua road is a gift to the community. However, will the presence of this road improve the lives of the Papuan people, or will it make it easier for those who want to seize Papuan lands?

The thorny question is whether modernization in Papua is to increase the income of the people in Jakarta or to drown out the Papuan people’s desire to keep their land and water sustainable. This fundamental question will certainly not be essential in upholding the security and defense system in dealing with separatist groups in Papua.

After I saw the condition and way of thinking of the Papuans when they faced modernization, it seems that the thinking system of the local people has not been integrated with the thinking system of those who live in Jakarta.

I have seen the pouring of money on former combatants in Aceh after 15 August 2005 has changed their way of thinking in seeing Jakarta. The Jakarta side sees that the combatants need money and social status as part of the social integration process, but among the people of Aceh, the mindset of people in Jakarta has prevented them from experiencing total prosperity after the Helsinki MoU. Money and social status gradually create a sense of people’s dislike of combatants.

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If the strategy in Aceh is implemented in Papua, it is highly suspected that it will not give maximum results. Hasan Di Tiro united the GAM group by not allowing them to read the Green Book by Muammar Qadafi. This means that Islamic and globalized ideologies, as imagined by Qadafi, do not exist in GAM. They only use history as an ideological basis. In Papua, combatants have never been trained like the militias in Aceh, Pattani, and Mindanao.

A supply of weapons and combat strategies have entered Papua, which has never been reported to the public. Like it or not, it can be said that there is interference from outside parties who want the conflict in Papua to continue. If this is wrong, then it is not difficult for the security forces to stop the movement of separatist groups in Papua.

However, if true, then the experience of Aceh and East Timor also occurred in Papua, that when there is a strong push from abroad to solve the Papua problem, it will be completed in a short time.

The next point is the extent to which intelligence operations in Papua are involved in producing their intelligence products carefully and accurately. I do not know how to measure it, but after the death of Kabinda in Papua, I Gusti Putu Danny Karya Nugraha Karya, of course, the question is how intelligence coordination in Papua still needs to be studied in depth.

The presence of a One-Star General on the battlefield, whatever the reason, of course, there is a guarantee from the intelligence side. Even if he had died there, there would be problems with intelligence operations that must be addressed in Papua.


Kamaruzzaman Bustamam Ahmad

Kamaruzzaman Bustamam-Ahmad (KBA) has followed his curiosity throughout life, which has carried him into the fields of Sociology of Anthropology of Religion in Southeast Asia, Islamic Studies, Sufism, Cosmology, and Security, Geostrategy, Terrorism, and Geopolitics. KBA is the author of over 30 books and 50 academic and professional journal articles and book chapters. His academic training is in social anthropology at La Trobe University, Islamic Political Science at the University of Malaya, and Islamic Legal Studies at UIN Sunan Kalijaga Yogyakarta. He received many fellowships: Asian Public Intellectual (The Nippon Foundation), IVLP (American Government), Young Muslim Intellectual (Japan Foundation), and Islamic Studies from Within (Rockefeller Foundation). He is based in Banda Aceh and can be reached at ceninnets@yahoo.com.au

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