The Jakarta Globe, August 6, 2013.
A former Free Papua Organization (OPM) leader and four others pledged their commitment to the Indonesian state as the central government prepared a draft law that would allow the restive province increased autonomy later this month, the Indonesian Military (TNI) said on Tuesday.
Engga Kiwo, the one-time leader of the Lanny Jaya chapter of the OPM, and four other rebels laid down their weapons in a welcoming ceremony conducted by the TNI’s Cenderwasih Command, spokesman Col. Inf. Lismer Luban Siantar said.
“They have been welcomed in an official ceremony [and] have pledge their loyalty to Indonesia in both written and oral [oaths], Lismer said. ”They said they have realized they were in the wrong by staying with the separatist group… [when] the Indonesian government has given special autonomy to Papua.”
The former separatist troops surrendered a cache of guns and ammunition to the military, Lismer said. The rebels’ surrender came as the central government readied the province’s “special autonomy plus” draft law, a program heralded as “development with compassion” by one local leader. The law would allow the provincial administration to reach out to OPM leaders when drafting local policy, Papua governor Lukas Enembe explained in a previous interview.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has expressed interest in quelling long-simmering tensions in Papua before the 2014 election. The president has promised to free all political prisoners in Papua under the autonomy plan.
Local leaders hope the new law will be ready by August 16. Yudhoyono plans to visit the province some time this month.
The central government’s plan is a marked departure from previous efforts to silence the region’s decades-long insurgency movement through military force. Separatist forces have waged a war for independence with Indonesian security forces since the former Dutch colony was annexed in 1963 in a vote widely seen as a sham by international monitors.
Human rights groups routinely accuse Indonesian security forces of committing human rights offenses in Papua. Security forces engaged in a province-wide crackdown on independence groups last year, including the controversial death of West Papua National Committee (KNPB) deputy chairman Mako Tabuni in July of 2012. Mako, a leader of the non-violent KNPB, was gunned down on a Jayapura street by Indonesian security forces in what one rights group called a government-sanctioned assassination.
The central government hopes increased autonomy to Papua will help reduce violence in the region. But the province’s governor said it will take more than autonomy to fix the region’s serious problems.
The resource-rich island is home to one of the world’s largest copper and gold mines, but many Papuans live in abject poverty. The central government has poured trillions of rupiah into the region since establishing the first autonomy program in 2001, but poverty rates remain at 31 percent. Alcoholism and HIV transmission remain a serious concern in Papua.
If the government is serious about making headway on Papua’s social issues, national leaders need to listen to wants of the local people, Lukas said.
“So many policies have been implemented, yet they are still not what the Papuans want or hope for,” he said.