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Government told to review troops in Papua

27 November 2007

The government and the House of Representatives have to evaluate the performance of security personnel in Papua, especially the concentration of military forces, their roles and the clarity of their purpose in Papua, activists said Monday.

Director of external relations at the Indonesian Human Rights Monitor, Poengky Indarti, said in the past year there had been a massive deployment of troops in Papua, especially from the Army.

"They established a number of security posts in the middle of communal land," she told a media conference.

She said the total number of additional troops in Papua was unknown but the increase was easily discernible.

"For example, in Waris, a district near Papua New Guinea, there are seven security posts and three of them are manned by soldiers from the Army's Special Forces Command, with six members in each post," said Poengky.

She said the seven posts belonged to the 521st infantry battalion from East Java.

"The excessive numbers of security personnel in Papua do not guarantee security in Papua," said Poengky.

She said the safety and human rights conditions in Papua still faced serious problems.

"In the past year we found eight cases of human rights violations in Papua," she said.

"Four of the cases involved Indonesia Military and another two involved the National Police," she added.

The violations included assassination, violence and intimidation. Conflicts between troops from different units and between troops and local people also occurred.

Such security and human rights problems in Papua, said Poengky, was rooted in the way security authorities inaccurately perceived security threats.

"Individual or groups' critical activities are always perceived as threats. As a result, repressive and intimidating actions are seen as the only solution when sociopolitical problems appear in Papua," she said.

Yusman Conoras, a representative of the Papua NGOs Cooperation Forum, said the problems were also caused by the lack of the troops' professionalism as well as their failure to understand local culture.

"When a Papua man has with him a machete or bow and arrows, troops automatically perceive him as a member of the separatist Free Papua Organization," he said Yusman.

Both Poengky and Yusman urged the government, legislators and security authorities to change their thinking in Papua.

"Various security agencies should also maximize coordination to minimize conflicts," said Yusman.

Activists said the security approach to Papua should not only address national security but also human security improvement.

"Problems in Papua were caused by poverty, lack of employment opportunities and access to health and education, and other social problems," said Poengky.

The Jakarta Post

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