File photo: Soldiers pray before embarking a helicopter bound for Wamena, Papua, on December 5, 2018. The team was deployed after a group of gunmen attacked and killed 31 construction workers in the Papua district of Nduga. (Antara Photo/Iwan Adisaputra)

Indonesia Labels Papua Separatists as Terrorists

BY :FAROUK ARNAZ, HERU ANDRIYANTO

APRIL 29, 2021

Jakarta. The Indonesian government officially labeled an armed separatist group in the easternmost province of Papua as terrorist organization on Thursday without citing a name.

The decision, which immediately drew objection from the Papua governor, came after a series of attacks on security officials that killed two people since Sunday.

“The government considers the Papuan organization and its people who have committed massive acts of violence as terrorists,” Chief Security Minister Mahfud MD said in a news conference in Jakarta.

He didn’t name any particular group, only referred to it as “armed criminal group”.

Mahfud pointed to the 2018 anti-terrorism law that defines terrorism as “deliberate violence to provoke terror and fear in the public in a way that can cause widespread deaths and/or destruction of the environment, public facilities or international facilities motivated by political and/or ideological purposes”.

“Based on this definition, activities by the armed criminal group under whatever name, its people and those affiliated with it are classified as the act of terror," Mahfud said.

He said the government will never recognize any movement to separate Papua from Indonesia, pointing to the UN General Assembly Resolution 2504 on the transfer of administration of West Papua from the Netherlands to Indonesia ratified in 1969.

“Papua, including West Papua, is a legitimate part of the Republic of Indonesia," he said.

His remarks came after a policeman and an army general were killed by gunmen, which the police believe is led by rebel fugitive Lekagak Telenggen.

Major General I Gusti Putu Danny Karya Nugraha, who led the provincial intelligence office, was fatally shot in the head during a visit to Beoga, a remote district in Papua, on Sunday.

Following the attack, President Joko Widodo ordered the military and the police to launch a crackdown on any armed group in the province.

But on Tuesday, three policemen were hit in a shootout with a group of gunmen in North Ilaga district, killing one of the officers.

Papua Governor Lukas Enembe said terrorist labeling without comprehensive research on any specific group could put innocent civilians in danger.

"The provincial government of Papua calls on the military and the police to first identify the particular armed criminal group, including territories where it operates, the number of its members and other distinctive marks that make the organization recognizable. The provincial government of Papua doesn’t want any event where civilians are wrongly shot or arrested," the governor said in a statement.

He also said terrorist labeling could psychologically affect Papuans living in other provinces. 

"The people of Papua are and will always be loyal to the unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia, accordingly we prefer humane security approach prioritizing dialogues over the exchange of bullets,” Lukas wrote.

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