Responding to the Papua Situation: The Deployment of TNI/Polri Forces and the Discourse to Classify the KKB as a Terrorist Group

The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence [KontraS] and Imparsial and several civil society organizations in Papua regret the government’s actions in the defense and security sector in responding to the situation in Papua. In recent months, the situation in Papua, especially in conflict areas such as Intan Jaya and Nduga, has become increasingly tense. This is because the armed conflict between the Indonesian National Army/National Police (TNI/Polri) and the National Liberation Army (TPN)-Free Papua Organization (OPM) often results in civilian casualties. The presence of the state from time to time in Papua only adds to the wounds of the Indigenous Papuans with contradictory steps in making decisions. This can be seen from the deployment of TNI/Polri forces and the discourse on redefining the KKB (Criminal Armed Group) and TPN-OPM as terrorist organizations. 

These two steps show that the securitization perspective of Papua is still strong so that the government not only fails to understand the true roots of the Papuan conflict but also opens the way for the use of a security approach (read: militaristic) in its resolution. This can be seen from the government’s steps two years ago (2019) in responding to Papuan expressions against racism that occurred in Surabaya. After the racism incident, the Indonesian government responded with security measures. At first, they slowed down and then blocked internet access, but as violence broke out, the Indonesian government sent additional security personnel. 

This step did not reduce the conflict situation; even the violent events in Papua did not stop. In 2020, KontraS found at least 49 violent incidents in Papua, such as shootings, torture, arbitrary arrests, forced dispersal, intimidation, and inhumane acts dominated by the police and the TNI. In 2021, civilian deaths from armed conflict occurred again. Contradictory steps in responding to the Papua situation are still being carried out. Instead of withdrawing TNI/Polri troops from Papua, the government has redeployed—or under the pretext that the government uses as an “exchange”—TNI/Polri troops amid the conflict in Papua. Meanwhile, various facts of violence resulting from security operations show that the use of a militaristic approach to Papua has only resulted in a humanitarian disaster.

With the operational uncertainty present in Papua, the reduction of TNI/Polri troops is an issue that cannot be answered under the pretext of the “exchange” of troops. The reason is that the exact number, number, and placement of the area for the TNI/Polri are not known. Moreover, the reduction of troops carried out to reduce conflict does not answer the humanitarian problems that have been happening in Papua. 

Then, the authority and responsibility in terms of deploying TNI forces within the framework of Military Operations Other Than War (OMSP) rest with the President with the consideration of the House of Representatives (state political decisions) as described in Article 7 paragraphs (2) and (3) of Law Number 34 of 2004 concerning Indonesian National Army. This is also reinforced by Presidential Regulation Number 7 of 2008 concerning the General Policy of National Defense, which emphasizes that the deployment of TNI forces in Military Operations Other than War (OMSP) must be based on the government’s political decisions. Based on these provisions, the deployment of TNI forces in Papua and their involvement in various operations (OMSP), if there is no basis for state political policies that underlie them and is carried out excessively clearly, violates the provisions of TNI Law.

As for other regulations, namely Article 4 paragraph (1) of Law No. 21 of 2001 concerning Special Autonomy for Papua, it is stated that defense and security affairs are an excluded authority within the authority of the Papua region. These provisions increasingly give legitimacy to the regulation of defense and security (one of which is the deployment of troops) to the absolute authority of the central government. This seems to ignore the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which resulted in refugees and violations of citizens’ rights to life and constitutional rights in Nduga, Intan Jaya, Puncak Papua, and Mimika from 2018 to 2021.

The situation in Papua will get worse with discourse regarding the redefinition of Criminal Armed Groups (KKB) and the National Liberation Army (TPN) – the Free Papua Organization (OPM) that will be classified as a terrorist organization. The discourse of classifying KKB and TPN-OPM in the classification of terrorist organizations is a hasty step and can potentially abuse power. The reason is that there is an accountability problem in the deployment of TNI/Polri troops. We see that the discourse is only a gap for the state to legitimize the TNI’s steps in domestic security through the Terrorism Law, resulting in the worsening of the situation in Papua.

We conclude from our various monitorings, namely that the TNI is trying to re-enter the civilian sphere, such as the failure to restructure the Koter (territorial command), which is growing in line with the division of provinces and regencies that have the potential to be used as political instruments, and military courts that have so far has not been able to present itself as the most effective and objective judicial mechanism in adjudicating cases involving members of the TNI.

In addition, the impact of labeling terrorists on TPN-OPM sooner or later will also have a psycho-social impact on society. People from Papua who live in other parts of Indonesia also can be labeled as terrorists by the local community. Learning from the previous series of events, the culture of racism has not entirely disappeared. With this label, incidents of racism such as in Papuan dormitories in Yogyakarta and Surabaya will quickly happen to other Papuan student dormitories. 

The use of force will only trigger an escalation of violence and result in serious human rights violations and a deepening of Papuans’ distrust of Indonesian authorities. Although complex and time-consuming, peace efforts must continue to provide opportunities for neutral parties who believe in armed groups to explore negotiations and communicate demands, whatever they may be. The government must open access to independent media to avoid confusing news, criminal stigma, and unbalanced narratives or information. The government must also open access for observers and humanitarian assistance to civil society affected by this crisis. This situation should also be seen as the Papuan people’s dissatisfaction with the Government’s policy practices in Papua. Therefore, in this crisis, the Government of Indonesia must answer the real root problems in Papua as a whole, including the various structural injustices and impunity of human rights violations that occurred in Papua.

Thus, we recommend the government to:

First, take a more humanist approach, not using a security approach or using militaristic and violent methods. This can be started by withdrawing troops from several areas in Papua. The conflict resolution approach must be comprehensive and touch the root of the problem. The government must immediately find common ground and establish a dialogue with representative and credible representatives representing and recognizing the Papuan people. The government must also provide opportunities for Papuans to be able to voice their right to self-determination as regulated in Article 1 of the ICCPR as an expression of citizens because it is a response to the problem of injustice;

Second, cancel the discourse on redefining the KKB in Papua or the TPN-OPM as a terrorist organization. This is an emotional step and does not think about the impacts that occur in the future. The approach with the stigmatization method adds to the complexity of the problem and will not solve the problem of injustice;

Third, the government shall strengthen communication with all elements of the regional government such as the Governor, Regent, Head Regional Police, traditional community leaders, religious leaders, youth leaders to sit down together to find a way out and find the ideal format for what is the right way to resolve and stop the violence that has occurred that has been going on for a long time.

Jakarta, 7 April 2021

Walhi Papua
LBH Papua
TIKI Papua
SKPKC Franciscan Papua
Pusaka Bentala Rakyat


Contact person:

KontraS – 081391969119
Imparsial – 081259668926
LBH Papua – 082199507613
SKPKC Papua – 082199668664