How long is killing still used to settle problems in Papua?

The incident in Nduga Regency on the 2 December 2018, in which multiple people were killed, was condemned by many parties. It is unquestionable that such actions need to be condemned. The significance of the incident is even more striking if one remembers all the suffering that has recently been shared with all of us, including the thorough report on Killings in West Papua over the past eight years (Don't bother, just let them die, Amnesty International Report, July 2018), testimonies about hundreds of protesters being arrested for expressing their opinion, reports about security force raids during activities and also in the offices of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) (Reports on 1-2 December 2018), and many other reports. Not to forget the victims among security forces and all the innocent people who were forced to flee their homes because their houses, gardens and sorroundings have been destroyed for the sake of 'law enforcement' operations. The incident in Nduga is not an isolated event! People in Papua have experienced similar suffering for decades and many living witnesses have already passed away.

This situation has become a reality that invites all people with good will to reflect on it. How can this situation be overcome in a dignified way?

There is one fundamental problem behind this reality: the denial of the Papuan people’s right to freely determine their own destiny; people in Papua experienced this rejection mostly during the sixties, but its impact has grown meaningfully over the past 50 years. Though the aspirations for self-determination were significant, the rulers rejected and avoided them - even during the process of integration in the Republic of Indonesia, including the implementation of the Act of Free Choice (PEPERA) in 1969. Everyone who had the opportunity to read or listen about the history of Papua knows the problem, including leaders of the Central Government, leaders of the Provincial Governments in West Papua, leaders of the State Apparatus, and the majority of the Papuan people.

Until now, the actual problem has always been ignored, denied and substituted with other approaches such as the security-based-approach, the use of force, development of the economy, improvement of the infrastructure, welfare and others to cover up the real problem. When will the time come that Indonesian leaders who uphold democracy, and who are in the position to determine the direction of the Republic, begin to realize that the settlement of this fundamental problem through dignified means cannot be avoided if one wants to establish peace and prosperity in Papua.

The solution is actually simple: all stakeholders should sit together and admit the existence of this historical problem! This simple step is the only basis for developing a meaningful and true solution. It is hard to understand why it is so difficult to choose such a reasonable and dignified approach. Just stop the violence, stop speaking ceremonial language, in which the terms 'democracy' or 'state of law' have become hypocritical terms, stop playing power, stop destroying the natural environment, stop seizing wealth and killing humans. Let's start listening to the voices of people who are the rightful and hereditary owners of West Papua since generations! What is needed in West Papua is not a leadership of power, but rather a leadership with human dignity.

It's never too late! There are still opportunities to follow the voice of the heart and conscience that makes us find dignified ways that are suitable for all of us, without exception. The time before Christmas and New Year is the time of repentance in which we shall choose the right path - a living path. Sit together and raise issues honestly, humbly, and openly to create a human-friendly world. Only then will the words "Peace of Christmas" and "Happy New Year 2019" have a true meaning.

By Theo van den Broek

Orginal article in Bahasa Indonesia available at

By Theo van den Broek