The Government of Indonesia is planning to establish a new province in West Papua. The plan has triggered rejection among many civil society groups and the Papuan Peoples’ Assembly (MRP). Many Papuans argue that the formation of the new province only serves the interests of a small political elite and ignores the aspirations of the majority of the Papuan people who do not support the administrative partition.
In January 2021, people in Biak, Jayapura, Sorong and other cities across West Papua repeatedly launched peaceful protests against the Government’s plan to push through amendments to the Law No 21/2001 on the Special Autonomy for the Province of Papua (UU Otsus Papua) to path the way for the establishment of a new ‘Papua Tengah Province’. Article 76 of the law stipulates that the MRP and the provincial parliament (DPRP) must approve new autonomy areas. The central Governments wants to amend the article, making the agreement by the MRP and DPRP no longer necessary. The MRP is opposing the Government’s plan and has announced it will appeal against the UU Otsus Papua’s unilateral revision to the Constitutional Court.
While a considerable percentage of the Papuan people is against the establishment of the Papua Tengah Province, the Government runs its campaign to manipulate the public discourse on the topic. The campaign will be launched on social media platforms. It should create the impression that the Papuan people want to establish the new province and the Government is only implementing their aspirations. The military appears to be directly involved in the implementation of the campaign.
According to the media outlet ‘Suara Papua’, two military members came to the house of indigenous Papuan, Hans Mote, in the Hinekombe Village, Jayapura Regency, on 11 February 2021. They suggested Mr Mote to participate in a video for the promotion of the administrative partition. The video shall show indigenous Papuans speaking in support of the
Government’s plan to establish a third province in West Papua. Hans Mote finally agreed to participate in the video because he feared negative consequences in case of rejection. An image shows one of the military officers holding a paper with the text that Hans Mote was supposed to read while his comrade recorded the message on video (see photos, source: Suara Papua).
It is not a secret that state institutions have increased their efforts to protect the Government’s interest through disinformation campaigns, using cyber troops, bots and private contractors for its operations. Fake social media accounts and dubious news websites spread false information to counterbalance web content on political independence and cases of human rights violations in West Papua. Such websites and accounts have mushroomed over the past years. Another case of active involvement of state institutions in the disinformation campaign was reported from Lombok.
In June 2020, members of the police published a student’s video, appealing to all Papuans to love the Unitary State of Indonesia (Negara Kesatuan Republik Indonesia, NKRI). The boy introduced himself as Bertus from Wamena, studying in the city of Mataram, Lombok. The video was shared by the Public Relations Department of the Nusa Tenggara Barat Regional Police (Polda NTB) on Instagram to promote the Indonesian unitary state doctrine and counter media information supporting political self-determination for West Papua. Later, the boy published a second video. He apologized for the content, saying that Polda NTB member had forced him to make the video statement under a false identity.