Papua And The Tensions Within – Analysis


By Tri Susdinarjanti

For the last 6 months, concern over security has been rising in Papua – eastern part of Indonesia due to several accidents in the area. Instances of shootings and violence have occurred in Abepura, Jayapura, in Mulia District, Puncak Jaya, and Freeport area in the district of Timika. These started with a mass protest on 18 June 2011 and continued till 19 October 2011, when the Papuan People Congress was being conducted; consequently the Police attacked the masses. 3 civilians reportedly died during the attack. The situation got worse on 24 October 2011 after the Chief Police in Puncak Jaya was shot by paramilitary attackers. Five days later, gun contacts occurred in Mile 36, Freeport area between military and militia. On 7 November 2011, again, shootings occurred in Mile 45, Freeport area and left one Police officer dead. Eleven days later, on 18 November 2011 guns contact occurred in Mile 52 and resulted in one casualty from amongst the civilians. Lastly, on 3 December 2011 shootings on the Police – Mobile Brigade occurred again in Mulia District, Puncak Jaya, and left two Police officers dead.

Location of Province of Papua in Indonesia
Location of Province of Papua in Indonesia

Tensions in Papua have resulted in several problems starting from human rights violation to the presence of Freeport mining company and the issue of separatism. The province, along with Aceh has been in high alert since the New Order Regime (which ruled the country from 1966 to 1998) particularly due to the issue of separatism. But, though Aceh’s conflict was settled through a peace process in 2005, conflict in Papua has not yet been properly resolved despite the 1998 political reform in Indonesia.

The first attempt to resolve the conflict in the area was actually taken by Abdurrahman Wahid who decided in 2000 to restore the name of the province as Papua, in place of Írian Jaya’ as given by Soeharto, former President during New Order Regime. Abdurrahman Wahid as the President elected in 1999 also notably granted permission for the holding of Papuan People Congress in the same year 2000. The attempt continued in 2001 by the enforcement of Law Number 21/2001 on Special Autonomy for Papua Province. Under Megawati Soekarnoputri presidency, the Law aimed to minimize the gap among Papua and other provinces in Indonesia. The Law also considered that natural resource management in the area had given less benefit to the locals.

The issue on natural resources management certainly goes along with the presence of Freeport – Mc. Morran, a mining company operated in Papua since 1967. The company, the biggest mining company in the world, operated under Law Number 1/1967 on Foreign Direct Investment that marked the policy of the New Order in economic development. The presence of the company itself brought several controversies due to its negative environmental impact on water and soil as well as on other security issues. For years, the police and military have been benefitted by the presence of Freeport in which they regularly received a high amount from the company budget for what they called ‘security money’. This kind of patron client alliance at certain point brought complexity towards the problem faced in Papua. The injustice is shared by the security officers as the group benefitted from the situation.

Therefore hatred towards the military and police officers rose – apart from the growing militancy from certain groups namely Free Papua Movement, several accidents/shootings recently targeted the Police officers. Shootings and gun fight occurred in three distinct areas in Papua. First, in Abepura, Jayapura as the capital the province. Second, at the Mulia District, Puncak Jaya, in which a post-election conflict recently occurred during local election. Third, on the Freeport area in Timika District in which tension currently rose among the local staff and the management due to certain issues on the minimum wage paid by the company towards the local staff.

In light of some human rights organizations raising concerns over human rights violation particularly on the atrocity in Abepura, Jayapura, the government of Indonesia responded towards the situation by establishing a unit to accelerate development in Papua and West Papua. It cannot yet be measured how successful such attempts by the government to restore the situation in the province have been. But the policy set up during the previous presidency of Megawati Soekarnoputri in 2001 needs to be re-evaluated.

In fact, special Autonomy in Papua has resulted in massive corruption and the idea to minimize the gap between the province and other areas in Indonesia has certainly gone in another direction. The community development program and recognition of local staff as part of Freeport policy to engage the locals has failed to address the broader context of the Papua problem. In terms of the democratization process, the post-election conflict as occurred in Mulia District, Puncak Jaya was only one example among many others in the country. Given the security environment, the government carefully needs to watch its policies before bringing in new legislations.

Tri Susdinarjanti
Research Intern, IPCS
email:[email protected]


IPCS (Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies) conducts independent research on conventional and non-conventional security issues in the region and shares its findings with policy makers and the public. It provides a forum for discussion with the strategic community on strategic issues and strives to explore alternatives. Moreover, it works towards building capacity among young scholars for greater refinement of their analyses of South Asian security.

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