[Nasional-e] Papua: A zone of peace
Tue Dec 17 03:00:20 2002
Papua: A zone of peace
Neles Tebay, Pontifical University of Urbaniana, Rome
On Dec. 1, the Papuans made two fundamental decisions, namely to declare
Papua as a zone of peace and to claim Dec.1 as the Papua's Day of Peace. The
declaration was publicly announced on that day in a speech by the deputy
chairman of the Papuan Presidium Council (DPD), Tom Beanal.
The idea of establishing a zone of peace in Papua was initiated in February
by the Papuan tribal chief council (Lembaga Musyawarah Adat/LMA) during
their congress in the capital of Jayapura. In their closing statement, the
LMA declared that "the indigenous Papuans are committed to making Papua a
territory which is free from violence, oppression and grief."
One can easily understand why the Papuans are committed to peace just by
looking at the history of Papua for the last 40 years.
The Indonesian government has conducted various military operations in Papua
since 1963: Operasi Sadar, or Operation Consciousness (1965-1967); Operasi
Brathayudha (1967-1969); Operasi Wibawa, or Operation Authority (1969); the
military operation in Jayawijaya district in 1977); Operasi Sapu Bersih I
dan II, or Operation Clean Sweep I and II (1981); Operasi Galang I dan II,
or Operation Reinforcement I and II (1982); Operasi Tumpas, or Operation
Annihilation (1983-1984); Operasi Sapu Bersih, or Operation Clean Sweep
Most of the victims of these operations were civilians.
The security approach was implemented intensively when Papua was officially
declared a military operation zone (DOM) until 1998.
With the DOM policy, the whole territory was under military control, and
some regions in Papua were even closed to the public. Papuans living in
provincial regions were strictly controlled by security forces, who closely
monitored their movements, actions and words. When villagers wanted to visit
their families in other villages or go to a city, they were required to
obtain written permission for travel from the military or the police, to
whom the also had to report upon their return. Life, in their experience,
was like living in prison.
All Papuans were under suspicion of being either a member or supporter of
the Free Papua Movement (OPM), and a Papuan could be killed easily anytime,
anywhere, at no cost and for no reason.
Indeed, thousands of Papuans were victims of extrajudicial killings, charged
as being "separatists" and found guilty without being tried in a court of
law. Even today, this security approach is still in operation.
Due to such military operations, many Papuans have been victims of unlawful
killings, intimidation, torture, arbitrary detention, rape and other forms
It is the desire of the Papuans to live with dignity on their own land,
where they would no longer be treated as separatists, but as human beings.
The desire for peace has thus become the main obsession for Papuans, so they
welcome any and all policies or programs from any country or institution
that would contribute to establishing Papua as a zone of peace.
This is also why the Papuans have rejected the presence of, the recently
disbanded, Laskar Jihad -- whatever their motivation -- and the
establishment of an East Timor-type militia, called Satgas Merah Putih
(Red-and-White militias) in Papua.
In the name of peace, the Papuans have demanded the Indonesian government to
withdraw thousands of its combat troops, including the Army's Special Forces
(Koppassus), deployed in the province. The Papuans have also been calling
for a genuine dialogue with the Indonesian government to end the conflict
Papua's effort to create a zone of peace has the full support of all of
parties in the province.
Up until now, the only institution which has rejected the idea of a peaceful
zone in Papua is the Indonesian military (TNI).
According to an article by local daily Cenderawasih Pos in its Sept. 30
issue, Papua military commander Maj. Gen. Mahidin Simbolon has said that the
term "zone of peace" is used by those who want to secede from the Republic
According to Simbolon, who was in East Timor before it claimed independence
from Indonesia, a zone of peace is an agreement made in a conflict-torn
region. In Papua, the conditions were not relevant, he insisted.
"There is no conflict in Papua. Everything is going well and smoothly, so
why is it necessary to create a zone of peace in Papua when peace already
prevails (there)?" Simbolon said.
Establishing a zone of peace is not the sole responsibility of Papuans and
others who live in Papua, but demands an active participation of all
parties, including government and security forces, both in Jakarta and in
This is why a Papuan delegation -- consisting of religious leaders, the
Papuan tribal chief council, the provincial legislative council and NGOs --
led by John Ibo, chairperson of the Papuan provincial council, has called
upon President Megawati Soekarnoputri to declare West Papua as a zone of
However, the central government has not responded to the Papuan's call for
The central government must have the political will to support civil efforts
to bring peace to Papua.