The Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict has published a new short briefing report with the title “COVID-19 and Conflict in West Papua”. The report was released on 13 April 2020 and describes the dispute over COVID-19 policies between local Governments in West Papua and the central Government against the background of the aggravating armed conflict in Indonesia’s eastern-most provinces.
The outbreak of the COVIC-19 pandemic in Indonesia has widened the gap between Papuans and Jakarta and lead to growing distrust towards Jokowi among indigenous Papuans. The Jokowi administration harshly rejected the attempts of local leaders in Indonesia to prevent the spreading of the Corona virus through lockdowns. Jokowi and his ministers urged local authorities to re-open ports and airports which had been closed for passengers as part of the preventive measures. IPAC concludes that the “result of the dispute over lock downs was to reinforce the perception in Papua of the central government as patronising and arrogant and of Enembe as a defender of the people.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit West Papua as the armed conflict in the central highlands has aggravated throughout the past months. Multiple violent attacks against security force members and Freeport workers confirm the observation. Since the killing of 19 road workers in the regency of Nduga in December 2018, the Indonesian Government has significantly increased the presence of the army and police personnel in West Papua and launched operations against the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN PB). However, the numerous security forces have not been able to prevent violent incidents. IPAC assesses that the armed conflict has aggravated despite the heavy security force presence, while the TPN PB has gained fighting ability and appears to have no problem to purchase weapons and ammunition.