Monday, August 22, 2011

Indonesia: ‘Nothing controversial’ in leaked West Papua report

Report – By Markus Junianto Sihaloho and Fidelis E. Sastriastanti in Jakarta

The Indonesian military has played down Australian media revelations of a confidential report on the West Papuan insurgency, saying there was nothing new in the details published.

Rear Admiral Iskandar Sitompul, a military spokesman, said that the points highlighted from the leaked “Anatomy of Papuan Separatists” report — prepared by Kopassus, the Army’s notorious Special Forces unit — had stopped being controversial years ago.

“I’m not saying that the documents quoted are original — that still requires further investigation. But while the recent publication could [understandably] rile us up, we have to stay cool and see it as an unimportant issue,” he said.

Iskandar said certain groups intentionally publicised the documents and were manipulating their content to disrupt the “currently improving relationship” between the military and indigenous Papuans.

“We believe certain groups are trying to make our relationship with the people worse,” he said. “We’re not trying to accuse whoever is behind this. We don’t care about that. What’s more important is for us to pay more attention to our improved relationship with the people, under which we’ll keep building churches and homes for the people.”

However, Roy Suryo, a member of the House of Representatives’ Commission I, which oversees security and foreign affairs, said authorities should not dismiss the publication by Australia’s Fairfax newspapers at the weekend so lightly.

He warned that prior to the independence referendum in East Timor in 1999, which was followed by a period of heavy violence, the Australian media had been publishing confidential documents accusing the Indonesian military of supporting local militias led by pro-Jakarta leader Eurico Guterres.

“The pattern is still the same. The world community is provided with negative information regarding the roles of our military and government, with the purpose of weakening the government’s bargaining position,” said Roy, from the ruling Democratic Party.

He urged the military and the government to track down the source of the leaked documents.

The Kopassus report said the Papuans were “easily influenced by separatist ideas due to a lack of a perception of nationality”.

It also said separatists were involved in “political lobbying to NGOs, congress and parliament members abroad,” as well as “flying the [banned] Morning Star flag to show the existence of a struggle” and putting together a team to “ask for support for Papuan independence from [US President] Barack Obama”.

Siti Zuhro, a political analyst from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), echoed the report’s concerns that there was undue foreign influence behind the separatist movement.

“What is of concern is the foreign intervention on Papua, whether from Australia, the United States or Europe,” she said.

“In Aceh, Europe seemed to play a dominant role, whereas in Papua, [the intervention] is coming from Australia and the United States.”

The report also blamed the “irrational demands for customary rights to land and limited transport infrastructure” for hampering economic growth in the province.

Markus Junianto Sihaloho and Fidelis E. Sastriastanti are journalists with the Jakarta Globe.