Brutality in Papua will continue, expert warns

October 20

JAKARTA: The torture of a Papuan man by Indonesian security forces, depicted in a video that emerged this week, is not surprising and is likely to be repeated, according to the man who led a landmark study into the unrest in Papua for the Indonesian government.

The frank assessment from Muridan Widjojo, editor of The Papua Road Map, comes amid further evidence of Indonesian military brutality in the troubled region, with a video showing soldiers indiscriminately kicking and punching bound Papuan detainees.

”I am not surprised,” said Dr Widjojo when asked about the first video, which shows a Papuan, believed to be a man called Tunaliwor Kiwo, stripped naked and then poked with a burning stick in his genitals.

”Given the dominant ‘anti-separatist’ security perspective among [military and police] officials both in Jakarta and in Papua, similar conduct would very likely take place again in the near future.”

Mr Kiwo is believed to have been killed, while the other Papuan man brutalised in the video is reportedly in hiding and petrified he will be hunted down and killed to ensure his silence.

Dr Widjojo said the behaviour of the large number of security forces in Papua was ”counter-productive” and ”has encouraged stronger anti-Indonesia sentiment” in the resource rich region with a Melanesian indigenous population.

The head of political research at the highly regarded Indonesian Institute of Sciences, Dr Widjojo, put together The Papua Road Map that was funded by the Indonesian government.

The report, published last year, calls for a new peace deal with the Papuan people, along the lines of the agreement that ended the long and bloody conflict in the Indonesian province of Aceh. The Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has failed so far to act decisively on the report’s recommendations, although he said in a state address in August that he was committed to pursuing constructive political communication with Papuans.

Despite almost 10 years of ”special autonomy”, large financial handouts from Jakarta and its vast mineral and timber wealth, Papua remains the most poverty stricken region in Indonesia.

Widespread corruption has siphoned off the financial assistance from the central government while military and police brutality has antagonised the population and migrants from other parts of Indonesia occupy almost all paid employment.

Separatist sentiment is strong among indigenous Papuans.

The video of brutality, revealed in the Herald, was front page news in Indonesia yesterday, and most media outlets reported on demands for it to be investigated thoroughly.

Some nationalistic parliamentarians suggested it could be a fake used to stir up support for separatists.

The Indonesian military and police have said they will investigate. The Herald understands a lieutenant-colonel from Indonesia’s Kopassus special forces has been sent to the Puncak Jaya region.

A spokesman for Indonesia’s foreign ministry, Teuku Faizasyah, said: ”If the incident did occur, it was not a systematic case from our standpoint.”

However, the Asia director for Human Rights Watch, Phil Robertson, said the Indonesian security forces had a poor record of thoroughly investigating such incidents or punishing those who had perpetrated human rights abuses.

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