Holocaust Museum Warns of Future Massacres in Indonesia’s Papua Region — BenarNews
The US Holocaust Memorial Museum warns in a new report that mass killings of civilians could occur in the restive Papua region of Indonesia over the next 18 months if current conditions deteriorate to a worst-case scenario.
Although large-scale violence against civilians is not yet happening in Papua, warning signs are visible and deserve attention, says the report titled “Do not abandon us: Preventing mass atrocities in Papua”.
The museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide released the 45-page report this month by an Indonesian, Made Supriatma, who conducted field research in the region in far eastern Indonesia.
“Indonesia ranks 27th on the list of countries at risk of mass atrocities. This report should be taken as an early warning,” Supriatma told BenarNews.
A combination of factors — increased rebel attacks, better coordination and organization of pro-independence civilian groups, and ease of communication — make it plausible that unrest could reach a new level in the next 12 to 18 months, the report said.
“If political and social unrest persists, and should it spread to the region, it is possible that the Indonesian government may determine that the scale or persistence of the protests would warrant a more severe response, which could lead to large-scale killings. of civilians,” he said.
The risks are rooted in factors such as past mass atrocities in Indonesia, the exclusion of indigenous Papuans from political decision-making, the failure of Jakarta to address their grievances, and conflicts over the exploitation of the resources of the region, according to the report.
Other factors include Papuan resentment over Jakarta’s failure to hold accountable security personnel implicated in human rights abuses and conflicts between native Papuans and migrants from other parts of the country. Indonesia on economic, political, religious and ideological issues, he said.
According to a scenario envisaged by the report, the pro-Jakarta Papuan militia, supported by the army and the police, are committing mass atrocities against the pro-independence Papuans.
But such a scenario depends on indigenous Papuan groups remaining divided into pro-Jakarta and pro-independence groups, he said. The other scenario involves Indonesian migrants and Indonesian security forces committing atrocities against indigenous Papuans, according to the study.
The report recommends that the government improve freedom of information and monitor the risk of atrocities, manage conflict through non-violent means, and respond to local grievances and drivers of conflict.
Supriatma said the indigenous Papuans he spoke to as part of his research confirmed that real and perceived discrimination had fueled an “us versus them” mentality between indigenous Papuans and Indonesians.
Papua, west of the island of New Guinea, has been the scene of a low-level separatist insurgency since the mainly Melanesian region was incorporated into Indonesia in a United Nations-administered ballot. United in the late 1960s.
In 1963, Indonesian forces invaded Papua – like Indonesia, a former Dutch colony – and annexed the region.
Only about 1,000 people voted in the UN-sponsored referendum in 1969, which locals and activists called a deception, but the United Nations accepted the result, essentially endorsing the regime in Jakarta.
“Not based on facts”
An expert from the Indonesian presidential personnel office, Theotransus Litaay, questioned the validity of the study.
“There is something wrong with the identification of research questions. The author extrapolated events in East Timor to his research,” he said, referring to violence by pro-Jakarta militias before and after East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia in 1999. .
“It’s not based on the facts on the ground,” he said, without giving further details.
Gabriel Lele, a senior researcher with the Papuan Task Force at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, said the report was based on limited data.
“It is true that there has been an escalation of violence, but the main perpetrators are the OPM [Free Papua Movement] and the victims were civilians, soldiers and police,” Gabriel told BenarNews.
He said the rebels had also attacked native Papuans who did not support the independence movement.
Violence has escalated in Papua since 2018, when separatist rebels attacked workers building roads and bridges in Nduga regency, killing 20 people, including an Indonesian soldier.
In the latest violence, suspected rebels killed 10 civilians, mostly non-indigenous Papuans, and injured two others on July 16.
A local rebel commander from the armed wing of the OPM, Egianus Kogoya, claimed responsibility.
“We suspect they were spies, so we shot them on the spot,” the Media Indonesia newspaper quoted it as saying on Monday.
The attack in Nduga regency came just over two weeks after lawmakers voted to create three new provinces in Papua amid opposition from indigenous peoples and rebel groups.
In March this year, insurgents killed eight workers who were repairing a telecommunications tower in Beoga, a district of Puncak regency.
The arms trade
Papua Church Council member Benny Giay said Jakarta had shown no willingness to tackle racism against Papuans, who are ethnically Melanesian, and instead branded pro-independence groups as terrorists.
“Authorities allow arms trade between armed groups and TNI members [military] and the police, who perpetuate violence and which, in the end, can have fatal consequences for indigenous peoples,” Giay told BenarNews.
The influx of migrants from other parts of Indonesia has created intercommunal tensions and disputes over regional governance, analysts said.
Indigenous peoples fear that a massive project to build a trans-Papuan highway, part of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s drive to boost infrastructure, could lead to economic domination by outsiders and the presence of more of troops, said Cahyo Pamungkas, a researcher. of the National Agency for Research and Innovation (BRIN).
“The road will mainly benefit non-Papuans, and indigenous peoples will benefit little economically because they are not ready to be involved in the economic system that the government wants to build,” Cahyo told BenarNews.