Raksa Ibrahim-write to protect the unwritten

Putting Diplomacy First on Papua

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The increase of armed incidents in Papua between the Indonesian Police and unidentified armed group indicates the issue of Papua is on the rise again.



The deployment of security forces in Papua indicates Papua is Jakarta’s top priority issue. For the Indonesian government, in order to restore order and maintain stability in Papua, the presence of security forces is vital to deter criminal armed group in Papua.

At the same time, the rise of armed incidents and the deployment of security forces to Papua have also attracted international attention. Both U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr stated their government’s concern over the issue of Papua.

This should alert the Indonesian government to have a clear measure in dealing with armed groups in Papua. In its efforts to restore order in Papua, any misuse and wrongdoing in the use of force from the Indonesian security forces would be easily manipulated by the West Papua independence movements.

The idea of independence-disintegrate from Indonesia is still appealing to some Papuan. This could be seen from the ability of the Papua independence movements to maintain its operation abroad. The independence movements use the violation of human rights and economic oppression in Papua as their main magnet to attract international support.

For many years the Indonesian government has put a lot of diplomatic efforts to mitigate separatism. If not carefully measure, placing Papua as a security issue, it could jeopardize previous diplomatic efforts to wash away the seeds of separatism from West Papua.

In dealing with armed criminal group in Papua, the government should also be aware of its implications to Indonesia’s position abroad. International support is vital to maintain Indonesia territorial integrity. As the former Indonesian foreign minister, Hassan Wirajuda has said, every domestic issue has a foreign policy aspect. The issue of Papua also has its domestic and international dimension.

In this light, any Indonesian government policy on Papua should calculate its implications for the international support for Indonesia. By doing so, the Indonesian government would have a more balance in its approach on Papua domestically and internationally. More importantly, this would give better chance for Indonesian diplomacy to generate support for a credible solution on Papua.

It has been argued that Papua could be the next tragedy for Indonesia after East Timor. Both East Timor and Papua has the same ingredients towards disintegration. The increase of human rights violations, insecurity in the provinces and international financial crisis could lead to the same tragedy.

To prevent the same tragedy from happening twice, the people and the government of Indonesia should embrace the people of Papua with the idea of freedom under Indonesian unity. This would put an alternative to the idea of independence from Indonesia.

The people of Papua are craving for freedom to express themselves.  They want freedom to gain opportunities and spaces to benefit from the development in Indonesia and in the Asia Pacific. They are seeking for a fruitful outcome from the full autonomy.

Until the Papuan could taste their freedom, the government should be aware of the two dimension of the issue of Papua. In the international realm, dealing with the issue of Papua through security approach alone would have a little benefit towards Indonesian territorial integrity.

Thus, diplomacy should always in the mind of Indonesian policy makers when it comes to the issue of Papua. By putting diplomacy first, the government could better balance and strategize its policy on Papua.


Written by Raksa Ibrahim

Januari 21, 2013 pada 9:20 am

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