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Challenges await General Perkasa in Papua

Challenges await General Perkasa in Papua

General Andika Perkasa. (ANTARA/ (Muhammad Zulfikar)

Papua issues will be a challenge for the leadership of General Andika Perkasa, whose sole candidacy for the post of Indonesia's Military Commander has been approved by the House of Representatives (DPR).


Armed conflicts are still occurring in Papua and West Papua though the central and regional governments are making the utmost effort to improve the welfare of local communities by intensifying regional development.


On November 7, 2021, or a day after the House's Commission I overseeing foreign affairs and defense approved Perkasa's candidacy, two soldiers were shot by Papuan separatist terrorists.


The two soldiers survived but sustained gunshot wounds after several Papuan separatist terrorists ambushed them in Sugapa sub-district, Intan Jaya district, on Sunday afternoon (November 7, 2021).


According to Commander of the 173/PVB District Military Command, Brig. Gen. Taufan Gastoro, a gunfight broke out after the armed separatists suddenly attacked the soldiers who were transporting logistics supplies.

Related news: Kontras urges Perkasa to prioritize approach-based dialogue in Papua


Papua has borne witness to a spate of violence against civilians and security personnel in the past few years.


Intan Jaya recorded its bloodiest month in September 2020, with notorious armed groups launching a series of attacks that claimed the lives of two soldiers and two civilians and left two others injured.


The armed groups have continued their acts of terror this year, too.


On January 6, 2021, at least 10 armed Papuans vandalized and torched a Quest Kodiak aircraft belonging to the Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) at the Pagamba village airstrip.


Armed groups often employ hit-and-run tactics against Indonesian security personnel and unleash acts of terror against civilians to instill fear among the people.

Related news: Two wounded soldiers in stable condition evacuated to Timika


On February 8, 2021, an armed rebel reportedly shot a 32-year-old man at close range in Bilogai village, Sugapa sub-district.


The victim, identified by his initials as RNR, sustained gunshot wounds on the face and right shoulder and was taken to the Timika Public Hospital in Mimika district on February 9.


On February 9, six armed Papuans fatally stabbed a motorcycle taxi (ojek) driver.


Then, on the morning of September 13, several members of the Lamek Tablo-led separatist terrorist group reportedly torched several public facilities, including a public health center, and homes in Kiwirok.

Related news: Military, police regain control of Bilogai after rebels' occupation


The separatist terrorists reportedly assaulted and tortured several health workers from the Kiwirok Public Health Center. One health worker, identified as Gabriela Meilan, died while four others sustained serious injuries in the attack.


The House of Representatives approved General Andika Perkasa as Indonesia's next military (TNI) commander in place of Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto, who has reached the retirement age of 58, on November 8, 2021.


Before being nominated by President Joko Widodo as the sole candidate for the post of TNI Commander, General Perkasa served as the Army Chief of Staff.


Responding to Perkasa's candidacy, Vice President Ma'ruf Amin said the new TNI commander would hopefully improve upon the approaches adopted toward Papuan communities in Papua and West Papua provinces.


The approaches that Tjahjanto applied in the two easternmost provinces have run well, he told journalists on the sidelines of his visit to Jayapura, the capital of Papua province, on November 6.

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In this regard, the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) urged General Perkasa to prioritize approach-based dialogue to address Papua issues.


"We appeal to the Indonesian government or state to use a dialogue for resolving conflicts in Papua," head of Kontras' legal division, Andi Muhammad Rezaldy, said in a statement that ANTARA received early this week.


Rezaldy made the statement at a webinar entitled 'Calculating the New TNI Commander's Commitment to the TNI Institutional Reform', which was streamed on Kontras' official Youtube channel.


An approach-based dialogue has been applied in the past by several Indonesian presidents, including Bacharuddin Jusuf (BJ) Habibie and Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur), he noted.


The approach adopted by President Gus Dur to resolve Papuan issues had productively contributed to peace, he said. Gus Dur, for instance, changed the name of Irian Jaya province to Papua in 2000, he noted.

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Gus Dur also allowed and provided financial assistance to Papuan figures for holding the Papuan People's 2nd National Congress in March 2000, he noted.


As revealed by past experiences, an approach-based dialogue has proven effective in reducing tensions in Papua, Rezaldy said.


To this end, he appealed to the new TNI commander, government, and all related parties to prioritize approach-based dialogue instead of military intervention for resolving Papua issues.


Military intervention in conflict resolution tends to trigger human rights abuses, he said, adding that approach-based dialogue would be a challenge for General Perkasa.


Last year, the Indonesian Defence Ministry had initiated a focus group discussion in Jakarta to seek solutions to the Papua conflict.


At a discussion forum, held on October 14, 2020, Indonesia's former vice president, Jusuf Kalla, was invited as a guest speaker considering his capabilities and experiences in resolving the Aceh conflict.

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Kalla argued that, in principle, all violent conflicts can be resolved through peaceful settlement, but each conflict-torn area may demand a different approach.


Regarding the Papua conflict, its resolution may need a different approach from that used in Aceh, he said.


As an initiator of the peaceful resolution to the Aceh conflict, Kalla highlighted the importance of firmly resorting to the basic principle of delivering a win-win solution to achieve an everlasting peace.


In seeking a peaceful solution to an armed conflict, none of the warring parties must feel like a loser or feel their dignity has been lowered, he argued.

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