Members of Commission I of the Indonesian House of Representatives criticized the government during a public for their lacking initiative in handling the independence movement West Papua. Commission I is responsible for Defense and foreign affairs. According to members of Commission I the government, in particular the foreign ministry, has failed in setting up a unified approach against the human rights based international campaign for independence, which would slowly but surely gained ground in foreign countries all over the world.
The head of Commission I Mahfud Siddiq stated that the government has missed to conduct damage control on the issue of the growing Papuan separatism and called on the foreign ministry to coordinate its public relations campaign with other government agencies. He suggested to make an attempt in broking deals with members of the independence movement with the goal to give up their struggle for a independent West Papua. Mahfud’ s suggestion was very likely related to a group of Papuan OPM members that had met with the head of the Indonesian Federal Intelligence Office (BIN) by end of January 2016, to seek amnesty and re-integration assistance in exchange for turning themselves in.
The minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, Luhut Pandjaitan, reacted positively on the law makers’ recommendations and emphasized that the government would promote dialogue with representatives of the independence movement. The Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister, Retno Mursadi, dismissed the allegation that the independence movement and its support in foreign counties has become stronger during past years. After a brief statement she asked to continue the public hearing behind closed doors, since the Papua issue remains a highly sensitive issue for the Indonesian Government.
The critics by members of the house of representatives must be regarded as a gesture of many law makers’ disagreement with President Joko Widodo’s political course. In January 2016 Jokowi had instructed his cabinet to prioritize a soft approach with regard to separatism, instead of holding on to a security based approach under involvement of force. It remains to be seen what concrete steps the Indonesian government will take with regard to Papua conflict in the close future. Since years, peace activists together with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences LIPI call on the government to engage into peaceful dialogue. The criticism from the Indonesian legislators increases the pressure on the government to take active measures regarding the conflict in West Papua – the questions remains whether it will really follow a soft approach towards peaceful dialogue.