Questions remain over the role of Indonesia’s military in Papua and West papua provinces as calls for a peaceful resolution to conflict in the disputed region continue.
Despite being frequently linked to rampant human rights abuses in Papua, Indonesia’s military is being provided with more weapons from both the US and Australia.
Although Jakarta has spoken of efforts to reform the rights record of its troops, many Papuans are terrorised by the spectre of the military and its shadow forces.
A surge of killings in Papua over recent months have mostly been attributed by police to "unidentified gunmen".
However they coincide with increased operations by military to capture Free Papua Movement, or OPM, separatists.
The human rights activist, Denny Yomaki, says village raids, violence and torture of Papuans by security forces have been happening for years.
He says troops enjoy impunity for abuses and continue to create a climate of fear in remote parts where people have little contact with the outside world.
“And in the area where the natural resources are abundant, that’s really the place where many of these inhumane treatments of the people of Papua are happening.”
Local and foreign media are kept in the dark as to the exact size and nature of Indonesia’s troop deployments in Papua, although their presence is described as heavy and widespread.
The editor-in-chief of the Papua newspaper, Tabloid Jubi, says the military rarely divulge clear information in response to questions about alleged abuses.
There are signs that many hundreds of troops have amassed on the border with Papua New Guinea but Victor Mambor says the military doesn’t give much away.
“I spoke with the Commander in Chief about the military there. They told us they can reduce the number of the military there but people.. it must be granted that there will be no conflict there.”
Denny Yomaki says a central component of the military presence in Papua is the work of undercover militia, intelligence groups and the notorious special forces unit Kopassus.
“According to reports from eyewitnesses and victims, there are people who they don’t know from before that cause trouble for them. In towns and cities like Jayapura for example, sometimes we see at the demonstrations that there are a lot of hooligans going round. It seems to be uncontrolled. We don’t really know who actually organises them.”
However a Kopassus vice-commander, who wishes to remain nameless, played down reports of growing violence in Papua.
“I like Papua, its beautiful view and people. It’s beautiful here. I love everything, the people, everything, I love it. People of Papua, peaceful. Everything is normal to us in Papua, it’s normal.”
Indonesian police say they have detained six separatist rebels over an attack which left four dead in Papua.
The announcement came a day after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Indonesia to pursue dialogue and ensure autonomy for Papua.
The East Timor & Indonesia Action Network’s John Miller says that the US administration’s words on Papua don’t match its actions.
He says Mrs Clinton doesn’t talk about the source of the violence which he says is Indonesia’s security forces:
“Even as the US government deplores the violence, the US has been opening up the spigot in terms of providing weapons to the Indonesian military, which is what the military looks at. They expect some criticism for the human rights situation in West Papua, as they used to expect for East Timor. But what they look at is US actions and US actions are saying: You want jet fighters? Here’s a bunch.”
Additionally, Australia’s Defence Minister Stephen Smith this week indicated his government will begin selling military equipment to Indonesia.
Via Joyo News from Radio New Zealand International
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