Thursday, December 24, 2009

The killing of Kelly Kwalik and Papua conflict

Kelly Kwalik was recognized as a prominent Papuan leader of the armed wing of the Free Papua Movement (OPM). He resisted Indonesia’s rule over Papua until the last day of his life, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009. He was shot to death by the Indonesian Mobile Brigade Police in Timika, the capital of Mimika regency, Papua. In the absence of Kwalik, the police can easily justify the killing by linking him with allegations of misconduct.

Police might link Kwalik to the series of shootings near Timika over the past six months targeting the operations of the US mining company, Freeport-McMoran. Kwalik might be accused of having ordered the kidnapping of the two Belgian journalists who were released after two months in 2001. They might allege he was involved in the killing two US Freeport employees in 2001. The list can be made longer by adding other allegations against Kwalik.

Despite the allegations, he was killed neither during a war nor in an exchange of fire. Indeed, he was assassinated in a time of peace in a raid conducted by the police. Since he was assassinated in a time of peace, Kwalik’s death might not be the final goal of the killing. The killing is simply a means to achieve a certain goal. Kwalik could have been killed deliberately in order to address a particular problem and to achieve a certain goal. What goals could be achieved through this killing?

There are a number of possibilities:

The first is that Kwalik was possibly killed to put an end to the attacks initiated in June 2009 targeting Freeport mining operations. Police might have considered Kwalik as the main cause of the attacks, although he denied any responsibility. Therefore, the police might have decided to eliminate Kwalik to address the security problem within the Freeport concession area.

However, the truth is that despite its investigation, underway since June, the police to date have not been able to identify those parties responsible for the attacks. Freeport-McMoran Copper and Gold Corporation has long been linked to human rights abuses involving Indonesian troops who secure the company’s facilities. Making Kwalik a scapegoat then, only serves to mask the failure of Indonesian authorities to credibly resolve the case.

If the above analysis is true, then the killing of Kwalik will not resolve the security problem in the Freeport consession area. Therefore, sooner or later, the attacks will happen again in the same area, unless all parties demanding protection money from Freeport are satisfied with the huge amount of money.

The second possibility is that Kwalik was assassinated to settle the conflict between the Indonesian government (Jakarta) and the Papuans (Papua) which has been going on from 1963 until today. Police might have considered Kwalik the main cause of the conflict. Therefore the best way chosen by the police to settle the conflict was by assassinating Kwalik in a raid.

The questions should be: Is it true that Kwalik was the main cause of the conflict between Jakarta and Papua?

In order to answer this question, we need to explore the root cause of the conflict: What is (are) the main cause(s) of the unsettled Papua conflict?

The Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) has conducted research for four years on the conflict between Jakarta and Papua and identified, in the book entitled Papua Road Map published in 2009, four main problems as the main causes of the conflict.
The first problem would be the government’s failures in development, particularly in the area of education, health care, infrastructure, and people’s economic development. Its indicator is that many Papuans remain living under the poverty line, despite the wealth of natural resources in Papua.

Second is the marginalization of, and discrimination against, the indigenous Papuans under Indonesian domination.

Third, the human rights abuses allegedly committed by the Indonesian security forces since May 1, 1963 until today.

The fourth problem is the different interpretation of the history of integration of Papua into the Republic of Indonesia. As of today the conflict between Jakarta and Papua remains unsettled because these four identified problems have not yet been addressed. So it would have been a great mistake if Indonesian security forces thought the assassination of Kwalik was the solution to the Papua conflict.

It is necessary for the Indonesian government to be reminded again that the killing of Kwalik and other Papuan rebel leaders will never overcome any of the four identified problems. Nobody in Papua believes that the assassination of Kwalik settles neither the security problems around the Freeport mining area nor the conflict between the government and the Papuans.

Having rejected the violent approach, the Papuans have already started discussing the possibility of having a neutral, third-party mediated dialogue between Jakarta and Papua. Despite the assassination of Kwalik, the Papuans will keep moving toward a dialogue between Jakarta and Papua.

In the wake of this killing, will the government finally engage in dialogue with the Papuans to settle the Papua conflict by addressing the four identified problems? By Neles Tebay, Abepura lecturer at the Fajar Timur School of Philosophy and Theology in Abepura, Papua.

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